I don’t think many GPs will be too sad to see the end of 2021. The constant media attacks, the hardening stance of NHS England and the Government, the failure of the Government to drive Covid cases down – there is not too much to cheer.
But there might be reason to be positive for 2022. I honestly think Dr Farah Jameel will serve as an excellent chair of the English BMA GP Committee. (And commiserations to Dr Chandra Kanneganti, who has done excellent work as the chair of the British International Doctors Association especially.)
As we state in our cover feature, Dr Jameel has a lot in her in-tray. She has already been subject to an attack from the Daily Mail, even before her election was confirmed – which is an essential badge of honour for any GPC chair.
It goes without saying that contract talks and potential industrial action will be priorities. But for me, her biggest task will be around changing the prevailing narrative around general practice. The BMA had been making good progress in sending the message that general practice was in crisis. This has been derailed in recent months with the media onslaught, followed by attacks from NHS England and the health secretary.
NHS England and Sajid Javid have shown that public opinion – at least that put forward by the right-wing press – is the driving factor in policy. I genuinely feel Dr Jameel has the presence, the knowledge and the charisma to shift opinion, and with it government policy. Her interviews – including on GB News – have put forward powerfully GPs’ case in a way that is not simply technical, but speaks to the public. For me, this is even more important than negotiation skills at this point (which is not to denigrate her negotiation skills, of which I know nothing).
Dr Jameel might not be able to do much about Covid. But if she can change the narrative then it will have an effect in both the GP consultation room and the NHS England negotiation room. Both of which will be essential to avoid a similar year to this.
Jaimie Kaffash is editor of Pulse. Follow him on Twitter @jkaffash or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. This is an abridged version of the editorial that will appear in the December 2021 issue of Pulse