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Why I want to set up a new union for GPs

Spleen is a GP and he's very worried about the future for general practice. So worried he wants to set up an alternative trade union to the BMA. And to do that he's asking for your support.

Spleen is a GP and he's very worried about the future for general practice. So worried he wants to set up an alternative trade union to the BMA. And to do that he's asking for your support.

Here he sets out his case. If you agree with his message and would back an alternative trade union, register your support using the comment box below.

1: Why we should worry

Be afraid. Be very afraid. I think I can see the future of general practice and medicine overall. Not only is it worrying for patients, it's pretty scary for any doctor with a regular career and at least ten years left to work.

The aim of this blog is to assess and acquire support for a campaign to halt or slow the progressive destruction of the career we were led to believe awaited us if we were prepared to suffer the challenges involved.

I know I am not alone in these feelings as I have published my ideas on several occasions and I have received almost universal agreement.

If we do nothing to try and resist the politically driven campaign to remove the few remaining assets of a career in general practice, and medicine as a whole, we will have ONLY OURSELVES TO BLAME when our status has been reduced to that of low level civil servants.

2: Why we are in this mess

To recap: Over the last five years or so, I believe that the government have pursued a series of strategic activities leading up to the current so called stalemate. A more accurate description would be "checkmate" as they have clearly won this time. The media are already distorting the ballot result by saying that over 90% of us agreed with option A.

Nearly all the clinicians with whom I have discussed this matter want to know why there was no option C, the option to take industrial action while we still can.

The first move was to offer us a contract which played to our vanity and also our greed. Our so called trade union, the BMA, then allowed us to sign a contract which was worthless, as the government had cleverly inserted wording which allows them to change the contract any time they see fit.

Nonetheless, lured by the extra dosh, or too close to retirement to care, we gave in and signed up to the new deal. Once again, we worked the deal and substantially increased our income.

Realising their mistake, the Government began moving the goalposts and at the same time, a media campaign labelling us as fat cat, workshy whingers began. This meant that when the politically pretty idea to make us open outside office hours was hatched, we would be unlikely to receive much in the way of sympathy from overworked, underpaid voters.

3: What else was happening behind (most of) our backs

While this was going on, the entity of the polyclinic came to pass at the same time as the ownership of several surgeries by one doctor or small partnership. I believe that all of these events are connected. Soon, we will be asked to work seven days a week, 8am to 8pm.

Any surgery with less than five partners will simply be unable to staff the hours requested of them. This will either result in very large partnerships of ten doctors or more, or, more frighteningly, small partnerships being simply destroyed, their list being taken over by the nearest super surgery.

With the advent of "noctors" in the form of nurse prescribers, nurse practitioners and so forth, the actual number of doctors required will fall dramatically and consequently many of us will become surplus to requirements. At that stage, something is likely to be done which will remove our self employed status and we will be offered shift style annual contracts on fifty grand a year with five weeks holiday.

A combination of clinical performance indicators will make it very easy to remove any dissenting individuals. Revalidation is going to be privately run. All that will matter is cost.

4: Why many of us may be redundant within ten years

If this sounds bleak, or unbelievable, just look at what has happened already. If you think that the scenario above will never happen, just remember that a hell of a lot of unemployed European doctors speak acceptable English and would be happy to work for thirty grand, never mind fifty.

The government is only interested in votes and costs. They do not want the hassle of running a health service. Private providers will cut costs wherever possible.

I find it laughable to hear a colleague at a recent meeting say that he had a mortgage and other commitments and felt he could not afford to strike. Try a 50% pay cut in five years and see what that does to your mortgage. This is part of the reason we are in this mess: Short sighted thinking. The other part is apathy.

5: How we have just totally failed ourselves

By failing to fight the Government over the hours issue, we have given them a clear message that we will give in to any demand they make. I believe that a major part of the hours threat was to test the water and see if we have the stomach for a fight. I feel that we failed miserably.

Unless we make a stand now, things will get rapidly worse and we will be lucky to have jobs in ten years, never mind self employed, reasonably well paid businesses where we are in control of our own future. The hours issue is, in my opinion, the thin end of a huge, nasty wedge which will destroy the future for most of us.

Unless we get together and act to stop this process, we will have only ourselves to blame. Unless you want to end up in the same situation, pay bracket and respect, as a junior civil servant, you must act now.

Together we can make a difference, moaning about it will do nothing at all but depress us more. I can only say this so many times and I cannot turn this problem around without help.

6: What we must do next

We need a new trade union to rival the BMA or a powerful lobby with agreed membership to stop the rot now. The time has come to get our heads out of the sand and fight for our careers. We need a name and a register of members.

You can register here and also voice your opinions. I cannot do this alone and I cannot stress highly enough that the time for action rather than just talking about it is now.

Please pledge your support and add suggested action

Editor's note: The views expressed above are those of the author, not Pulse. Pulse has no view either way on this issue.


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