Given his reputation as the pugnacious front of the profession, GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman might have been expected to relish the pitched battles and skirmishes of a momentous year.
But while RCGP chair Dr Clare Gerada became the face of the fight against the health bill and BMA chair Dr Hamish Meldrum led the troops up the hill on pensions (but left it to Dr Mark Porter to bring them down again), Dr Buckman has looked somewhat lost in the maelstrom of the past 12 months.
He started the year with combative statements on the NHS pensions reforms, promising to find ways to ‘hurt’ the Government over an issue that was making GPs ‘furious’ – and we know how that promise turned out.
He also claimed that while the GMC could ‘say what it likes’ on revalidation, it could not go ahead without a deal on funding for remediation. Now new BMA chair Dr Mark Porter admits revalidation is ‘not going to be perfect from the start’ and the profession may have to proceed with key issues raised by the BMA remaining unresolved.
But never underestimate Dr Buckman’s considerable influence. As one of our panel said, his ‘no-nonsense clarity and sharp wit’ are why the GP from Finchley, north London, is held in such esteem among the grassroots of the profession. He has a deep understanding of what GPs are thinking and feeling, as demonstrated by the reception he received at this year’s LMCs conference.
When Dr Buckman highlighted the need for GPs to fight for influence on CCG boards and warned they may desert the NHS due to the pressures being placed on their health and livelihoods, he was reflecting the central concerns of his profession at a time of great flux.
Dr Buckman has been up against an intransigent Government, but has won some significant victories over the past year. He was instrumental in watering down the potentially catastrophic plans for abolishing GP practice boundaries, and instead managed to get the Department of Health to agree to a much-delayed pilot – potentially kicking the idea into the long grass.
He can also take credit for forcing ministers to allow some CCGs to put the brakes on the rollout of NHS 111 – although only eight of them took up this opportunity.
Dr Buckman himself says it is ‘the same big things’ that have formed the focus of his negotiations this year: expenses, workload, premises, recruitment and revalidation.
A man of his word – he was the first GPC member to confirm his practice would be taking industrial action over pensions – we can expect business as usual from the GPC chair over the next year.
Best moment: Securing talks on new funding for GP premises.
Worst moment: Agreeing to include new QP indicators in the QOF.