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LMCs conference: Terrible title, exciting event

By Ian Quinn

For an event with surely one of the most boring titles in history, the 2010 LMCs conference was a blast of fresh air compared to previous gatherings.

Dependable Care in Difficult Times it said on the agenda but in reality this was a conference which truly felt like it was at the centre of a political maelstrom, with excitement to compete even with World Cup fever.

Previous years have seen endless condemnation of Government, ministers and policies, but have suffered from a real sense that this was a group of GPs talking among themselves, with little real chance of change.

But in the formative first few weeks of the new coalition government, it was the ConDems rather than the condemnations which dominated the thinking behind much of the debate.

It would be completely wrong to suggest the atmosphere was one of eager anticipation of things to come.

The two days begun with a dire picture of the extent of the economic threat facing the NHS, with Dr Laurence Buckman warning that the new health secretary Andrew Lansley would be no soft touch despite early crowd pleasing announcements.

There was plenty of nervousness too about the role GPs will be expected to play under his new vision of GP commissioning, which is the issue which was behind much of the talk in the corridors outside the conference chamber.

Yet there were also signs that this time the countless motions being debated may at least have a chance of feeding into the huge debate about how to solve the NHS crisis.

Dr Buckman's revelation that the Government had ordered a root and branch review of the Summary Care Record was one standout.

Although there was a fiery debate about whether the GPC had gone far enough to recognise the rights of the growing band of salaried GPs, at least there were some concrete measures to discuss.

Unlike conferences in Scotland and Northern Ireland, GPs voted to take back responsibility for out-of-hours commissioning, in a bold statement of intent which, while hugely opposed by many, will hasten major changes to the profession, which many argue are overdue.

Overall, there was a sense that this conference actually may result in real change.

The hope, of course, is that GPs will be at the centre of this change, driving the difficult decisions ahead in a time of economic crisis whilst avoiding huge new upheaval to their practices and allowing the dependable care to survive.

The reality will now play out over the next few weeks and months as the Government's health bill, the operating framework and decisions over commissioning, practice boundaries, care records and the rest are made, all of which you will read about in Pulse.

But for now, at least, GPs are back at the table.

By Ian Quinn Full national LMCs coverage

Click here to read all the coverage from this year's English, Northern Irish, Scottish and Welsh conferences.