It has been a turbulent few years in UK general practice. A chaotic attempt to reform the NHS in England, a battle over pensions and the spectre of funding cuts have left many of us concerned about the future of a health service that is not just our employer, but a cornerstone of our national character.
But it was precisely because of this difficult environment that I decided to stand as a GP negotiator. Many years of experience as chair of the Scottish GPC have given me an education in the bumpy world of medical politics. Not being based in England hopefully gives me the chance to stand back and take a wider look the Department of Health's conveyor belt of guidance, policies and initiatives.
As GPs, I believe we have an opportunity in the years ahead to show our mettle, both as defenders of the NHS's principles and as reformers who can get our health service working better for patients.
Neither of these aims will be easy to achieve.
The pressure being placed on NHS finances is huge, and many of us will have to deal with tough choices in our own practices if we aren't already staring them in the face. Sitting alongside this issue are the awakening of CCGs across England, as well as the revalidation changes on the horizon. In the future, the rising demand for NHS services and the task of dealing with an ageing population will add to our workload.
There are no easy solutions to these challenges, but as GPs we are perfectly placed, despite the obstacles in our path, to get the right results out of these difficulties. For example, the GPC has already placed enormous pressure on the Government to get the composition and operation of CCGs right, and we will continue to do so. This approach to watch, listen and lobby – forcefully and loudly when called to – will be key on all the other issues likely to dominate the landscape.
The next few years will be a tough time for GPs, but I know we can rise to the challenge.
Dr Dean Marshall is a GP in Midlothian, Scotland, former chair of GPC Scotland and a GPC UK negotiator