Pulse’s departing political editor Ian Quinn looks at the latest threats by GPs to resign en masse – and wonders if this time it could be for real…
There have been numerous occasions since I joined Pulse almost exactly four years ago that GPs have threatened to resign, including a particularly memorable one when the BMA drew up secret plans for GPs to quit the NHS en masse (uncovered by Pulse of course).
In truth, when push has come to shove, on most of those occasions GPs were not quite ready to follow through with their threat.
Despite successive pay freezes, countless top-down reorganisations opposed by the vast majority of GPs and spiralling expenses, most GPs have stayed put.
The reason? Because, for the most part, they love their job, and it remains well-rewarded enough financially for them to look forward to a relatively prosperous life and a retirement with a good pension.
This is resented by many members of the public and some of those in other professions, including the odd journalist no doubt – if I’m brutally honest, It has not always been easy in my role to feel complete empathy with GPs’ concerns over pay.
Yet few can actually argue that people with the skills and responsibility that goes with being a GP do not deserve to be among the highest-paid members of society.
This week’s splash, however, reveals that if the Government pushes ahead with its plans for pension reform, an average GP will be forced to stump up with more than twice the average national income in tax and pensions contributions alone.
They will be left with take-home pay which is easily outstripped by thousands of middle-rank PCT managers and countless overpaid management consultants, not to mention all those city bankers out there we love so dearly. Actually while we’re at it, add politicians to the list.
I get the impression that this time GPs are not just full of hot air about their threats to quit.
It would seem suicidal for the Government, already facing a massive battle to win round the public and the profession to its controversial health reforms, to call their bluff.
In 1966, a year most famous for a certain England footballer putting the ball three times into the Germans’ net, there was also the lesser-known story of GPs sending the BMA undated resignation letters en masse.
At the time, the ‘resignation issue’ was the perceived lack of modernisation of the NHS, lack of investment in practices and so on. Our predecessors never got to know what would have happened because the Government caved in.
This is sadly my last blog for Pulse, as I am leaving to begin a new job in a different sector – nothing to do with a Government clampdown on my pay, I promise – but I will be interested to see if on this issue the Government again bows to pressure.
If it doesn’t, I confidently expect to be reading on Pulse’s website from afar that thousands of GPs are finally making good their threat – and what a mess the NHS will be in then.
Ian Quinn was Pulse news editor and political editor from 2007-2011.
Click here for more Pulse blogs Pulse political editor Ian Quinn