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GP petition threatens RCGP resignation due to ‘controversial’ conference speaker

A petition has been launched in protest of a ‘controversial’ journalist being invited to speak at the RCGP annual conference.

GP grassroots campaigners GP Survival launched the petition insisting the RCGP revoke the invitation of journalist and broadcaster Julia Hartley-Brewer due to her ‘highly controversial’ views on immigration.

The petition says: ‘We call on the RCGP to revoke this invitation and our signature below indicates that those of us who are members will consider resignation from the RCGP or boycott the conference if she is allowed a platform for her views.’

GP Survival founder Dr Alan Woodall, who set up the petition, said on the petition page that Ms Hartley-Brewer’s inclusion at this year’s annual RCGP conference is an ‘insult to the thousands of international doctors who have come to work as GPs in the NHS’.

But the RCGP has said speakers invited to their annual conference ‘do not necessarily’ reflect RCGP views and that the purpose of Ms Hartley-Brewer’s invitation was because she is the daughter of an NHS GP and also to ‘provoke debate’ on issues related to general practice.

Dr Woodall condemned statements that the broadcaster had previously expressed via social media that she could not see anything wrong with Enoch Powell’s 1968 ‘rivers of blood’ speech and asked the RCGP to remove Ms Hartley-Brewer as a speaker.

At the time of publication, the petition had passed 100 signatures.

Other speakers set for the conference in October include health secretary Matt Hancock, GMC chair Dame Clare Marx and Professor Sir Michael Marmot, director of the Institute of Health Equity at University College London.

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: ‘A key purpose of the RCGP Annual Conference is to provoke debate about a wide range of issues impacting on general practice, the wider NHS and patient care. Delegates are not expected to agree with everything they hear – indeed the conference is an opportunity to challenge views they disagree with – but it is important that we explore issues from a variety of perspectives, including controversial ones.

‘We strongly condemn the tweet in question – and Julia Hartley-Brewer will have other views that will not be in line with college policy or our core values. But she has been invited to speak at our conference as part of a Q&A panel as a mainstream broadcaster, who regularly discusses health issues on her radio show, and who is the daughter of an NHS GP.

‘Unless they are speaking in an official college capacity, speakers at our annual conference do not necessarily represent the views of the RCGP.’

The RCGP’s actions have previously sparked debate among GPs who petitioned for the college to revoke the Sultan of Brunei’s honorary title and ‘significant’ donation after the country made gay sex punishable by death.

Elsewhere, some deaneries in England are insisting GP trainers have an ‘active’ RCGP membership to become a trainer.

Julia Hartley Brewer responds to RCGP’s decision and explains the context for her 2016 ‘Rivers Of Blood’ tweet