There was only one motion that people were talking about all day at the Special LMC Conference. But it was not certain to pass.
The motion calling for mass resignation was watered down at the last minute, so that the GPC has to ‘canvas support’ in six months rather than ‘request’ it. At the beginning of the conference, the GPC’s Dr John Canning stood up and called on the conference to bin the whole agenda and it was ‘not up to the job’.
His call was voted down and the day continued, but as I sounded out a number of delegates during the day, there was a mixed response to the idea of calling for mass resignation. Some said it was the wrong move, others saying it did not go far enough. ‘Why wait six months?’ said one GP.
But as the debate started the atmosphere in the room changed. Young Buckinghamshire GP Dr James Murphy proposed the motion with a plea that ‘we can’t go on like this’.
LMC leaders lined up to support his motion and the speeches were very emotional, with many near to tears as they urged the conference to back the motion. A patently furious Dr Katie Bramall-Stainer said she had just had a meeting with her partners about their practice’s future. She asked: ‘If not now, then when?’
‘We have to act now, they are killing us anyway’ said Dr Naomi Beer to huge cheers.
The zenith came when conference favourite Dr Fay Wilson came on stage. She railed against the GPC executive team: ‘The nicely, nicely campaign is not working’.
Dr Wilson then turned to the old guard and addressed them directly, saying that although they may be just about to retire they had to back this call for the younger generation. ‘Do it for James and his kids. Do it for Katie,’ she said. Many older colleagues noticeably shifted in their seats.
There was a brief moment of silence as the motion was carried, but then many were on their feet cheering, relieved that they had something concrete to take back to GPs in their area. And in a day long on strong speeches and moving words, but short on new policy, it felt like a major breakthrough.
But – as a slightly subdued Dr Chaand Nagpaul said before the vote – what matters now is whether the profession can truly rally around its leaders and remain united. Crying wolf is not an option.
The ball is now firmly in Richmond House’s court. The health secretary’s new ‘package’ of measures to help general practice (due next month) will have to deliver – in a way his ‘new deal’ most certainly did not.
Otherwise Jeremy Hunt could find himself with a loaded gun placed firmly next to his head.
Nigel Praities is editor of Pulse