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Why I quit my commissioning role in protest over pension changes

Disenchantment over pensions prevented me engaging with colleagues, says Dr Pritpal Buttar.

Last year, after stepping down as GPC representative for Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire, I applied for a position as deputy locality commissioning lead on Oxfordshire CCG.

I chose to get involved not out of any love of the reforms, but out of a sense that, if they were going to happen, I preferred to be involved in the decision making to ensure GPs were given an acceptable deal.

So, given that I took up the post in order to try to make the system work on behalf of GPs, why have I now resigned?

I should first stress that my resignation was probably inevitable, as I am also a senior officer in the LMC and there is a clear conflict of interest in maintaining both posts.

But I chose to submit my resignation before it was required of me, in order to make a statement about my sense of disenchantment.

This has little to do with the way that our commissioning group is evolving – I have a great deal of respect for most of the senior clinicians involved in the process, and will continue to engage with them from my LMC perspective. 

The reason I chose to resign was linked to the pensions dispute.

At a time when the Government's reforms require GP engagement at an unprecedented level, I am dismayed that the Government – the same Government that, until recently, was urging everyone involved in the tanker drivers' dispute to continue talking – now refuses to negotiate with the BMA to resolve the dispute. 

The final straw

Our commissioning group has reached a stage in its development in which locality leads and their deputies will visit all practices in the coming weeks, to urge them to engage with the process.

It was this particular matter that triggered my resignation. 

I cannot in good conscience sit across a table from my fellow GPs and ask them to show greater commitment to the commissioning process, when I feel rebuffed by the Government and disengaged from its plans for the NHS. 

I have read elsewhere that the pension changes may at least in part be linked to long-term plans for allowing the private sector to take advantage of the NHS reforms, but that is not my primary concern here. My resignation was to avoid putting myself in a position where I would be asking others to engage in a manner in which I currently feel unable to engage.

I did not resign as part of any attempt to urge others to do the same.

Every individual must make their own mind up about whether they serve their own and their profession's interests better by staying within the commissioning structures, or by leaving.

I can only speak on my own behalf when I say that the Government must understand that picking a fight with the entire profession comes at a price.

This is an unnecessary conflict, forced upon us by the Government – and my resignation from a commissioning role is my way of showing my anger.

Dr Pritpal Buttar is chair of Oxfordshire LMC and a GP in Abingdon

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