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It's time for GPs to stand up to bullying Milburn

The BMA has undoubtedly been damaged and devalued in the eyes of the country by the consultants' contract fiasco.

The GPC negotiators must not commit the same folly. Any future roadshows over the priced contract must not follow the hectoring, badgering pattern of the earlier round.

The strategy of the BMA for all the years I have known it has been nominally to oppose government when the troops are restive, then, when inevitably rebuffed, retreat and talk about sanctions until the heat has gone out of the situation leaving the Department of Health's position intact.

The situation doctors find themselves in today is one of great discontent, facing a belligerent Secretary of State but, vitally, carrying the trump card themselves ­ a shortage of doctors and a wild election promise that cannot be fulfilled without medical co-operation.

Alan Milburn is a bully and bullies only understand one thing. The BMA has the whip hand. In this case, a new consultants' negotiating team must place a list of administrative ­ not clinical ­ sanctions before their members then ballot for industrial action before meeting the Secretary of State and be prepared to implement it if he remains intransigent. As I see it, the present position is so serious for the BMA, for doctors and for patients that there is no alternative way forward.

For its part the GPC already has such a mandate. If the second GP ballot rejects the contract then the trust which GPs have put in the committee should be honoured without further delay

But I am not holding my breath. The old guard are still there smothering progress. Even with a winning hand I can only foresee betrayal.

Dr David Roberts

BMA Council member

for over 10 years

Kettering, Northamptonshire

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