GPs are facing a ‘sad litany of threat, uncertainty and criticism', with the profession under attack on several fronts, BMA chair Dr Hamish Meldrum has warned the association's Annual Representative Meeting.
In his keynote address this morning, Dr Hamish Meldrum told delegates at the Cardiff conference that GPs were at the forefront of responding to the challenges facing the NHS.
And in addition to their leading role in the NHS reforms, he said family doctors were facing a ‘drip feed of media attacks', ‘threats to their contracts', the ‘madness' of proposals to abolish practice boundaries and the undermining of the NHS pension scheme.
Dr Meldrum said: ‘All governments are certainly going to need and value their GPs. In addition to the drip feed of media attacks, there are not-so-veiled threats to their contracts and the untold damage that will be caused by the madness of abolishing practice boundaries. The GPC has proposed a long list of ways to improve patient choice without shattering the foundation stone of UK general practice, the registered GP list.'
‘It's a sad litany of threat, uncertainty and criticism that gnaws away at the professionalism and dedication of those we represent.'
‘And, as if that wasn't enough, there is another major threat hanging over the profession – the threat to our pensions.'
‘We recognise the need to plan for the long term, and ensure the NHS pension scheme is secure and stable, now and in the future. We're not asking for special treatment – but we are asking for fairness – fairness based on the facts.'
More broadly Dr Meldrum warned that ‘these are very difficult times' for the NHS, and said: ‘The only way the NHS can come through, is for there to be a real and shared commitment between all of us who have a stake in its future - a commitment to build trust – trust between and amongst governments, staff, employers, patients and the public.'
Planned reforms of the NHS in England and the continued pressure on NHS finances across the UK are major issues that the profession will face in the months ahead, he said.
On the Health and Social Care Bill, Dr Meldrum acknowledged that although the bill had been significantly altered for the better, ‘there is still a lot to play for, still much detail to be devilled out, still much else we want to change'.
The BMA will continue its battle against the divisive features of the healthcare market in England, he said.
‘Doctors are not afraid of competition – in fact, they thrive on it. They want to know that they are working as well, if not better than their colleagues and they need fair, effective and evidence-based data on health outcomes to provide them with that information.'
‘But that is quite different from the unfettered, free market of the industrial world, because the NHS must never be like that – you only have to look across the Atlantic to see why, and why we will continue to resist all attempts to make it like that.'
Speaking about funding cuts, Dr Meldrum said the NHS is in the grip of its greatest financial challenge:
'The challenge of ever-increasing demand, finite resources and the most difficult financial situation the NHS – in all four nations – the biggest it has ever faced in its 63 years,' he said.
‘There is a huge difference between adapt-and-change and slash-and-burn, between carefully-planned reorganisations and knee-jerk closures and redundancies, between partnership working amongst health professionals, managers and patients and imposed, top-down, politically motivated diktat.'