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GP leaders bare their teeth

They might not have voted in favour of charging patients, but they showed their teeth when it came to pay, says Pulse news editor Jaimie Kaffash

The motion that everyone was discussing before the LMCs Conference fell flat in the end – GPs voted overwhelmingly against charging patients, following pleas from GPC officers.

This might not necessarily reflect the position of the profession as a whole – last year’s Pulse survey revealed a majority of GPs were in favour – but, in political terms, it would have been a tough sell to the public.

But on other votes LMC leaders were flexing their muscles. They mandated GPC to explore whether the union should withdraw from the national pay review process that delivered practices disappointing 0.28% funding uplift this year. The motion gave negotiators a strong hand to look at ‘explor[ing] whether we should continue to participate with the DDRB process’, following a series of ‘unbelievable’ pay awards.

This is a marked change from previous BMA policy, that concentrated on the GPC asking for a change to the way the DDRB calculated pay awards. It seems the profession has lost faith in the process which continually underestimates practice expenses and where a secretary of state is able to accept low awards and reject higher ones on a whim.

And it looks as though this has come at a time when the GPC leadership is beginning to roar. GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul has until now taken on a diplomatic style of leadership, which arguably secured some successes in the contract negotiations.

But today – wearing his chains of office for the first time – he took the fight to the Government, with some emotional rhetoric. He talked of ministers ‘smelling blood’ before last year’s contract imposition, ‘vilifying headlines’, ‘political gimmickry’, even calling NHS 111 a ‘disgrace’, winning him a standing ovation from the hall.

It could be too soon to judge, but today might be seen as the day that the profession’s leaders looked to confrontation ahead of compromise. Perhaps the Yorkshire air is stiffening their resolve.