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Five candidates stand for GPC chair

Five candidates are standing to replace Dr Laurence Buckman as GPC chair on 18 July after the nomination process closed on Friday.

GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey and negotiators Dr Chaand Nagpaul and Dr Dean Marshall will join the joint candidates Dr Fay Wilson and Dr Michelle Drage, who announced their candidacy in a Pulse article last week, on the ballot papers, to be voted on by GPC members at their meeting next Thursday.

On the same day, GPC will be choosing who will represent the profession in formal negotiations.

The only person safe in his negotiator seat is Dr Marshall, who will remain in his three-year negotiator position for two more years unless he wins the chair role.

Meanwhile, Dr Vautrey, Dr Nagpaul and their fellow negotiator Dr Peter Holden will all face challenges in their bid to remain on the GPC negotiating team.

Other GP leaders vying for a spot on the team are Dr David Bailey, who is being replaced as GPC Wales chair by Dr Charlotte Jones this month, former negotiator Dr Beth McCarron-Nash and new challengers Dr Brian Balmer and Dr Mark Sanford-Wood.

Experience is the theme as GPC chair battle unfolds

Dr Richard Vautrey is a GP in Leeds and the current deputy chair of the GPC, a role he has held for six years. He says this, in addition to his nine years as a negotiator and experience as an LMC secretary, means he has the experience required to be GPC chair. He adds that he does not ‘underestimate’ the challenges but believes his skills, energy and ideas will be the best way to deal with them.

He says: ‘It’s time we increased the resources in general practice so that GPs can offer the quality of care we know we can achieve. It’s time to manage workload, reduce burnout and improve GP morale.  It’s time young doctors thought being a GP was the best career choice they could possibly make.’

But Dr Vautrey’s fellow negotiator Dr Chaand Nagpaul, a GP in north London, is rivalling the bid on a platform of experience after serving on the GPC since 1996. He says he is the best option because he will ‘fight for general practice’ and ‘define a positive future’ for GPs with a grassroots perspective gained from 20 years  on his LMC and as a jobbing GP.

He says: ‘My immediate priority is to tackle the crisis of unresourced workload shift and saturation, to ease the pain for GPs and provide us with the resources, time and capacity to provide the care our patients deserve.’

‘I will fight for general practice to gets its fair and increased share of the NHS cake, and for politicians to finally grasp that this itself is key to reducing NHS pressures. I want GPC to lead a vision and strategy beyond the current battles, that defines a positive future for general practice, fit for purpose, sustainable, with manageable workload and just rewards, and a GPC  in touch with the concerns and aspirations of everyday GPs.’

Dr Dean Marshall is a GP in Dalkeith on the outskirts of Edinburgh. He is one year into a three-year term as a GPC negotiator after finishing a six-year run as Scottish GPC chair last summer. He says UK general practice is ‘in crisis’ and says that he offers the ‘bold and decisive leadership’ that is now required.

He says: ‘General practice in the UK is in crisis and bold decisive leadership is now required to unite the profession and protect our future.  Major changes to our contract, an unsustainable increase in workload and the continual denigration of our profession by politicians and the media must stop. I believe it’s time for change, a change of emphasis, a change of strategy, a change in the way we engage with those inside and outside the profession.’

However the joint-ticket option of Dr Fay Wilson and Dr Michelle Drage also come with a breadth of experience. Dr Wilson, a GP in Birmingham and a director of out-of-hours provider BADGER, is a former chair of the LMCs Conference, while Dr Drage, a GP in London, is the chief executive of Londonwide LMCs.

The duo is standing in a controversial bid to move away from what they described as the GPC’s current ‘fighting and resistance’ strategy, a negotiation technique they said has not won any real gains for GPs.

Dr Wilson said: ‘We’ve both done quite a lot of negotiating in the past and one of the issues is trying to find out where the other side is trying to get to and help them to help you. We want to make gains and not just prevent a chipping away. It’s a fundamentally different approach to saying “we are going to fight to defend”.’

Dr Drage said: ‘We are trying to focus on the bigger picture and not just about the contract as it was. It’s about the future of general practice, engagement with the LMCs and making sure that everyone understands what general practice is about and gets the support it deserves rather than years focusing on the minutiae. It’s not about a future of compromise, it’s about the future of general practice.’