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Wednesday, 20 June, 2001, 11:16 GMT 12:16 UK
GPs blast NHS reform plans
GP vote
GPs are angry at the way reform is being introduced
Family doctors have condemned the government's handling of NHS reform at their annual conference.

Hundreds of British Medical Association representatives from across the UK passed a raft of motions highly critical of the proposals laid down in last year's NHS Plan.

They also backed plans for a hard-line approach to negotiating a new contract for the UK's 36,000 GPs which could see the medical profession in head-to-head confrontation with the government.

A ballot carried out by the BMA last month revealed that a large majority of GPs are prepared to tear up their NHS contracts if ministers do not meet their demands for a better deal by next spring.

Dr John Chisholm
GP leader Dr John Chisholm will address the conference
The conference heard that while GPs agree with the desire for reform, they believe that the proposals laid down in the NHS Plan are undeliverable without extra resources. This means more doctors and non-medical staff.

Ministers were accused of stoking up patient demand to unreasonable levels.

'A national disgrace'

One motion warned primary care could "collapse".

Dr Tony Rimmer, a GP from North Cheshire, told the conference: "The system in which we work is nothing short of a national disgrace."

Listen up, Messrs Blair and Milburn

Dr Patrick Seal
And Dr Patrick Seal from Dorset said: "Listen up Messrs Blair and Milburn, we are not by nature a pugnacious lot. Please do not allow your thumping majority to be an excuse to give us a good thumping."

Other speakers said clinical need, not a 48-hour target, should determine when GPs see patients.

They warned that, without extra resources, such a demand could compromise the quality of care that doctors can offer to patients who really need their attention.

GPs said following last month's ballot, the BMA should begin to consider how sanctions, or a "work to rule" could operate.

Dr Kambiz Boomla, a GP from east London, told GPs they should follow the example of workers on the tube, who he said, retained public sympathy with them because they made it clear they were striking over safety.

He suggested ways of taking limited action was to impose the 15 minute consultations GPs feel is ideal, or for local GPs to protest on the steps of the local trust.

Representatives argued that NHS staff are reeling from too much change in too short a period of time.

They called for new initiatives to be properly evaluated before they are introduced.


Dr John Chisholm, chairman of the BMA's GP Committee, won a standing ovation when he told the conference that a new contract that protected the health and wellbeing of both patients and doctors was badly needed.

He outlined the growing crisis in recruitment and retention in general practice:

  • Nearly one in ten vacancies remain unfilled after 12 months
  • Over 40% of vacancies have been outstanding for over a year
  • At least a quarter of GPs are planning to retire before the age of 60
Dr Chisholm said: "All over the UK, GPs are facing a daily struggle to give their patients the high quality care they need while coping with a stream of government initiatives and woefully insufficient resources.

"The current situation cannot continue.

"GPs have had enough. They can take no more. They are at breaking point.

The conference will also debate a motion of no confidence in the National Institute for Clinical Excellence.

NICE was set up by the government to decide which drugs should be widely available on the NHS.

However, some GPs fear that the organisation is not sufficiently independent from interference by politicians or the pharmaceutical industry.

A national survey of GP opinion will be carried out by the committee this summer, to gage family doctors' feelings across the country.

They will be asked about issues including morale and retirement intentions.

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See also:

01 Jun 01 | Vote2001
GPs ready to quit NHS
31 May 01 | Health
Doctors lambast Labour on NHS
02 Aug 00 | NHS reform
NHS Plan: at a glance
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