Not yet three months into the job, new GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul is already being described by those who nominated him as an ‘inspiring figure’ and a ‘visionary already uniting the profession’.
But he will need all of his persuasive powers to tame what his predecessor called a ‘recklessly bullying’ Government less than two years from an election.
The cracks are beginning to show in general practice, with the profession on its knees from rising workload and stress.
The GPC miserably failed to dissuade ministers from introducing a crushing increase in workload this year via the contract imposition – although it did manage to secure some concessions in Scotland and Wales.
There is arguably even more at stake in the year ahead. Plans for a fresh upheaval in practice funding, with the phasing out of the MPIG and a revised Carr-Hill formula, sit alongside heatlh secretary Jeremy Hunt’s intention to force through some kind of 24/7 responsibility for patients.
Dr Nagpaul’s proposals for ‘preferential treatment’ of GPs who decide to opt in to providing out-of-hours care have already been rejected by NHS England, and he faces a Government happy to undermine the profession at every opportunity, with the full support of the national media.
But ministers underestimate Dr Nagpaul at their peril. He is a clear thinker and represents a shift to a more analytical approach from the bombast of the Buckman years. As one GP said when nominating him, his appointment just might be a ‘game changer’ at a critical juncture for the profession.
Ministers need to be able to show their NHS reforms have worked, and that they are able to resolve a crisis in urgent care; they will require the co-operation of GPs for both. The much-trumpeted digital revolution also relies on GP co-operation, and those dementia diagnosis rates are not going to raise themselves.
Dr Nagpaul – the first GPC chair to top the Pulse Power 50 – is clear what his challenge is: ‘Persuading Government that supporting, developing and investing in general practice will provide the solution to many of the pressures and challenges facing the NHS.’
There’s no doubt that’s a big ask. Over the next year, Dr Nagpaul will need an iron fist inside his velvet glove.
Best moment: Winning the GPC election in July, beating off tough competition, especially from deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey.
Worst moment: Being unable to protect practices from a massive hike in workload from April
Ask Dr Nagpaul your questions
Take part in our live online Q&A with the new GPC chair at 4pm on Thursday 10 October. Find out more here.