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The BMA certainly represents my views

An open letter to health secretary Alan Johnson from a Somerset GP, backed by another GP calling for the Government to act in good faith towards GPs.

Open letter to health secretary Alan Johnson

Dear Secretary of State,

I write in response to your letter to all GPs in England. You appear to be attempting to undermine the BMA's negotiating position. As a BMA member, I expect the BMA to negotiate on my behalf. It is Government policy, if I understand the position correctly, to negotiate only with the BMA on these matters. My views on the threatened imposition of contract changes have been made known to the BMA through my elected representatives on our LMC and my BMA GPC representative.

Your letter comments on the need for greater choice of appointments, the ability to book in advance and fast access to appointments. My practice has always run a mixture of such appointments and has invested heavily in doing so. Our patients expressed great satisfaction with this in your own Patient Experience Survey. None of this is ever mentioned in your virulent press campaigns.

I and many of my colleagues are fed up with, and utterly demoralised by, the constant tide of negative anti-GP spin that has been orchestrated by your department and Number 10. Were I five years older, I would almost certainly take early retirement and leave medicine altogether; not a decision I would ever have envisaged taking until the past few months. I am not lazy, I do not work from nine to five, I do not earn £100,000 from NHS GP work and I last found time for a round of golf some 20 years ago. Our contracted hours take no account of the hidden work we all do, often at home in the evening after a 12-hour day and at weekends, keeping up to date and trying to keep pace with the ever-increasing 'bureaucrazy' that now pervades general practice.

To offer further improvements in access to GPs will require investment, not least in more doctors. Your offered deal, and worse still, your threat to impose something even more draconian if GPs reject it, will threaten patient care by making access worse rather than better, as resources are moved from traditional practice to private sector providers.

I am opposed to the Government's bullying approach to negotiation and will be voting to reject any threatened unilateral imposition of a change to my contract. Kindly return to the negotiating table immediately and start negotiating with the BMA again - acting, this time, in good faith.

From Dr Tristan Martin, Wells, Somerset

This extended hours deal really is unfair. It is asking us to do more work for no extra money. Our LMC, Cumbria, tells us we will have to do the extended hours for recycled money - basically nothing. For the small 1.5% uplift, we still have to do some unspecified DES that we have not been told about.

I am more than happy to work at weekends and in the evenings. But to do it for nothing is plainly unfair. I will have to pay my staff to work at these times as well, so this is a pay cut to do more work.

A much more fair route would be to pay us for the amount we negotiated in GMS2 to opt out of out-of-hours care. This would be fair and transparent.

We opted out in good faith for a fair deal and are willing to opt back in, in good faith, on the same basis.

From Dr Darrell Goh, Whitehaven, Cumbria

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