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GPs could be ‘forced to walk away’ from NHS in ‘meltdown’, Buckman warns

GPs' efforts to navigate an NHS heading towards 'financial and operational meltdown' are being hampered by 'regulation, bullying micromanagement and dissipated effort', GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman has warned.

In a defiant keynote speech to representatives at the annual LMCs conference in Liverpool, Dr Buckman took aim at a raft of Government policies, including pension reforms, revalidation and the removal of practice boundaries, and warned GPs' working lives were becoming unsustainable. Click here to read the full speech

'All of us can see that workloads are rising back to 1999 levels and most of us are back to 12-hour days,' he said. 'If we are continually ignored, we are going to be forced to walk away as our practices, our health and our solvency fail. This is not a threat - merely recognising reality.'

Dr Buckman also warned CCGs are developing without the involvement of many grassroots GPs, and must be made to work with LMCs. But he defended the GPC's role in battling against the health bill, claiming it had a duty to represent all voices within general practice.

While acknowledging that in some areas of the country the development of CCGs was progressing positively, Dr Buckman said some areas were trying to impose structures that were 'unacceptable'.

He said: 'CCGs are ‘membership organisations' as we keep on being told, they are our creatures, not just another version of the PCTs they replace. GPs should be telling them what to do, not the other way round. We were told it was going to be different…the Government needs to make it so.'

Dr Buckman also hit back at critics who claimed the GPC had not fought hard enough to stop the health bill being passed. He said: 'You may think that all GPs are against all of this, but there are plenty of GPs running CCGs and we have to repesent them too, as well as rein in anything they do that we think is wrong.

'GPC will continue to work with the GPs who are developing CCGs because that is the only way to influence what they will become. CCGs must be made to work with LMCs. If this kind of pragmatic engagement upsets those who would have wished to stop the bill then I am sorry. '

In his fifth speech as GPC chair, Dr Buckman said the extension of GP training and the 100th anniversary of the GPC had represented some 'rays of light in these dark days' for GPs in the past 12 months.

But he said GPs were operating in 'tough, uncertain and not very happy times', and said the profession must confront challenges head on. 'We need to take the right decisions to set us on a more positive trajectory,' he said.

Click here for the latest updates from the LMCs Conference