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Taking the GPC to task over pensions cap

Dr Jim Beatson's protest against the pension cap gained momentum after his first open letter to GPC chair Dr Hamish Meldrum got support from scores of Pulse readers. Here we publish two further open letters on the issue, together with Dr Meldrum's response

Dr Jim Beatson's protest against the pension cap gained momentum after his first open letter to GPC chair Dr Hamish Meldrum got support from scores of Pulse readers. Here we publish two further open letters on the issue, together with Dr Meldrum's response

By good fortune, we have found ourselves in possession of a recent internal GPC/BMA memorandum that was never intended for the eyes of humble coalface workers like us.

While granting us enlightenment, it also reveals the true and abhorrent face of British medical politics.

Reading on and between the lines we have drawn the following conclusions – dispute them if you will.

• The GPC/BMA is determined to avoid a collision course with Government over the pension capping crisis as this 'would be counterproductive' and 'prejudice the outcome of current crucial negotiations'.

• The GPC/BMA will not 'lead the charge to the barricades' because it feels there won't be much support from the profession and there will be little public sympathy for GPs.

• The GPC/BMA stance is to 'leave the decision to the judges'.

What could suit the BMA better than a very lengthy judicial review? By the time of settlement, pension capping in December 2006 will be history and those angry old GPs will be dead meat.

If the judgment goes against the profession, it's really no big deal as the GPs involved are a small minority of practitioners of retirement age who will soon be forgotten by the profession and written off by the BMA as acceptable collateral damage. Who really gives a toss that they went down in friendly fire?

We the undersigned will not be ignored and humiliated as expendable pawns on the BMA's glorious chessboard of amateur politics.

Since our last co-signed letter was published in Pulse (Letters, 11 January), we have received copies of letters sent to you by disillusioned young GPs who, at the very start of their careers, are wondering what sort of unholy mess they've got themselves into when they see their seniors being kicked in the teeth as a reward for decades of service.

They're all for the GPC/BMA 'leading the charge to the barricades' – the trouble is they're not sure which side of the barricades you're on!

We demand immediate action by the GPC/BMA to secure full Government compliance with the GMS2 contract and to guarantee absolute legal accord with the terms of that legal contract, signed by the profession in good faith.

We urge the GPC/BMA to get real, act honestly and decisively, and restore some semblance of dignity and hope to a profession dying on its feet.

We entreat those who share our views to stand up and be counted by e-mailing the GPC/ BMA at with copies to be sent to

Dr Jim Beatson, Troon, AyrshireOpen letter to Dr Hamish Meldrum

Other signatories: Dr Stuart Holms, Ayr, Ayrshire; Dr Jimmy Niblock, Ayr, Ayrshire; Dr John Hawson, Windermere, Cumbria ;Dr Brent Smith, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland; Dr Robert Park, Shrewsbury, Shropshire; Dr Dale Egerton, Liss, Hampshire; Dr Duncan Darbishire, Ulverston, Cumbria; Dr Iain Jamieson, Irvine, Ayrshire; Dr Christine Macnair, Cumnock, Ayrshire; Dr John Cleland, Mauchline, Ayrshire; Dr Gerald Paton, Maybole, Ayrshire; Dr Roderick Shaw, Edinburgh, Lothian; Dr Lesley Nixon, Troon, Ayrshire; Dr Iain Ramsay, Cumnock, Ayrshire; Dr Bruce Henderson, Ballantrae, Ayrshire; Dr Graham Tinto, Lamlash, Isle of Arran; Dr Philip Hulme, Ayr, Ayrshire; Dr Brian Scobie, Maybole, Ayrshire; Dr Peter Ferris, Kilwinning, Ayrshire; Dr John Bowbeer, Ayr, Ayrshire; Dr Gary White, Patna, Ayrshire; Dr Iain Christie, Cumnock, Ayrshire; Dr Tommy Hunter, Ayr, Ayrshire; Dr Paul Dunlop, Cumnock, Ayrshire; Dr William Nicholl, Galston, Ayrshire; Dr David Stevenson, Ayr, Ayrshire; Dr Michael Collins, Calver, Derbyshire; Dr Alastair Thomson, Bolton, Lancashire; Dr Carolyn Linton, Patna, Ayrshire; Dr Tony Shepeard, West Byfleet, Surrey; Dr Kessar Khaliq, Kilmarnock, Ayrshire; Dr Michael Smyth, Kilmarnock, Ayrshire; Dr Peigi MacKay, Irvine, Ayrshire; Dr Joyce May, Catrine, Ayrshire; Dr William Phillips, Solihull, West Midlands; Dr Raymond Dean, Kilmarnock, Ayrshire; Dr Cliff Paxton, Kilmarnock, Ayrshire; Dr Craig Simpson, Ayr, Ayrshire; Dr Linda Sword, Ardrossan, Ayrshire; Dr Alistair Stewart, Kilmarnock, Ayrshire; Dr Sarah Coy, Kilmarnock, Ayrshire; Dr Simon Hales, Saltcoats, Ayrshire; Dr Charles Dawson, Liss, Hampshire; Dr Lynda Dean, Kilmarnock, Ayrshire; Dr Ann Hamilton, Kilmarnock, Ayrshire; Dr Heather King, Kilmarnock Ayrshire

In all my 39 years in medicine I have never been as angry as I feel now. The BMA has always been a toothless organisation.

When I think about the difference in income between me and my lawyer and accountant friends, I feel let down and very sad.

I have two children doing medicine and have warned them against general practice.

My vintage of GPs have given a lifetime of service for little recompense.

We did nights and countless weekends for £25 per night visit. My first salary cheque was £65 for working 169 hours out of 168!

We did the current job of NHS Direct all our lives – how much does this cost now?

We took our retirement packages in the knowledge that our pensions would increase at the rate of increase of our income.

Had we known that our pensions might be capped, we would have made different decisions.

The BMA has let down all GPs of my age. How can the next generation ever trust you again?

If this decision is not reversed we shall fight it endlessly. You have caused a hornet's nest of ill feeling and bitter resentment.

Dr Roderick MacLeod, Glasgow, Open letter to Dr Hamish Meldrum

Response to both letters from Dr Hamish Meldrum

Contrary to Dr Beatson's statement, the BMA GPs Committee is not 'trying to avoid a collision course with the Government'.

Anyone who has been watching the broadcast media or reading the press knows that along with other GPC members I have been challenging the Government outright on its statements to do with GP pay.

We are also seeking a head-to-head challenge through the courts contesting the Health Secretary's decision to cap GP pensions.

Dr Beatson misrepresents our actions and intentions. It's precisely because we are so angry at the pension cap as it affects GPs who are around retirement age that we are prepared to fight the decision with every lawful means at our disposal.

I agree the present situation is unjust and unfair and that's why we oppose it so strongly.

Dr MacLeod's anger would be better directed at the Secretary of State for Health who made the decision to cap GPs' pensions. It isn't the BMA that has let GPs down but a Government that has reneged on the contract it signed up to.

If Dr MacLeod reads your columns regularly he will know we are seeking to mount a legal challenge to Patricia Hewitt's decision.

Believe me, the anger palpably demonstrated in the letter is matched and exceeded – if this is possible – by that felt in the GPC.

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