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Comrades, it’s time to play dirty



The Extraordinary LMCs Conference. I am still reflecting on how extraordinary it was.

Extraordinary to be surrounded by otherwise normal-looking GPs waving coloured papers, heckling and muttering.

Extraordinary how breaches of etiquette provoked disapproving stares at first-timers, such as myself. Extraordinary to see 300 GPs coming together to make decisions (when most practice meetings come to blows over which brand of coffee to buy).

We need to put up our fists and stop behaving like gentlemen

Extraordinary to see the rage that was manifested when someone proposed the agenda be thrown out completely (I mean, why hold a vote just on the agenda anyway?).

I repeatedly asked my colleagues, ‘is it normally like this?’ They looked back, nonplussed.

And this sums up the problem. We stick to our rule books and procedures while the Government plays dirty tricks. They don’t care how hard we work. They don’t care that we’re making ourselves ill to prop up primary care. We are assuming they are gentlemen. They aren’t. While we argue about an agenda, maybe we should rip up the rule book and think like Whitehall.

The bulk of the day was underwhelming. I wanted action. I wanted concrete proposals to push to the GPC and say: ‘Here! This! Now listen, get on and do it.’ Instead we argued over wording and nuances, and rejected perfectly good motions because of the phrasing and the what-ifs.

After a frustrating day, the only bit that gave me hope was the very last motion nudging us closer to mass resignation. This time, people ignored the minutiae. The passionate speeches helped (Dr Katie Bramall-Stainer was simply incredible) and although many colleagues were concerned, it was carried.

But after the high came the let-down. It was scarcely reported in the press, which focused instead on our wanting to ditch all older patients because we are ‘too lazy’ to do home visits. Then, despite all the junior doctors’ activism, the health secretary imposed his new contract on them. All this has shown me that we need to do more. To fight more imaginatively, dirtily.

It is time for the GPC to withdraw from negotiations and poll the profession on our priorities for any new contract. Next, the BMA needs to hire a good PR firm whose job is to counter the rubbish in the papers. Do it on the sly if necessary. Or let’s crowdfund it.

Then, get some actual costed, concrete proposals for how we can reject contract negotiations or an imposition. Yes, we could resign, but what else? Give locums, salaried GPs and partners different choices because our circumstances are all different.

Then, focus on unity. We’re scared of hurting patients and losing our jobs and homes. But when your practice is the next to close, those things happen anyway. We have to fight back so let’s do it on our terms and with a purpose.

Following the rule book has not worked. We need to put up our fists and stop behaving like gentlemen.

Dr Zoe Norris is a GP in Hull