War with GPs 'counterproductive', new GPC chair warns DH

By Neil Roberts, 19 July 2013

Ministers must recognise that war with GPs is counterproductive and invest in general practice if they want to improve patient access, new GPC chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul has warned.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul: new GPC chairman

Dr Chaand Nagpaul: new GPC chairman

Speaking to GP hours after being elected to the top job, Dr Chaand Nagpaul said it was not possible for government to expect GPs to provide any more services while ‘over-stretched and above capacity’.

Despite clear signals from government and NHS England that access and out-of-hours would be key in forthcoming contract negotiations, GPC had not had any formal discussions with officials on these areas, he said.

‘Clearly we want to have dialogue with government, mindful of the wishes of grassroots GPs,' he added.

‘Our starting point has to be that the reality for GPs is that they are overworked, overstretched, working above capacity, and feeling exhausted. So any dialogue with government has to recognise that, and if government wants to make further changes it would have to invest in and support general practice to deliver more.’

Dr Nagpaul, a north London GP, has been active in his LMC for over 20 years, a GPC member since 1996, BMA council member since 2008, and served on RCGP council for 11 years.

He saw off rival bids for the post of chair from deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey, negotiator Dr Dean Marshall, as well as a joint bid by Londonwide LMCs chief executive Dr Michelle Drage and Birmingham GP and chief executive at out-of-hours provider Badger Dr Fay Wilson.

Dr Nagpaul, who takes over from Dr Laurence Buckman after his six-year spell as chairman, called for a fresh approach to government, calling for ministers to recognise that last year’s imposed GP contract was ‘counterproductive’ for GPs, patients, and to the government.

‘Clearly I will want to fight for and stand up for GPs and general practice,’ said Dr Nagpaul. ‘But I hope the government learned from the experience of last year that it is counter-productive to attack general practice when the government depends on GPs for its own reform agenda.’

‘It’s in government’s interest to have patients satisfied with general practice and the NHS,' he added.

He added: ‘It is completely counterproductive for the government to be at war with GPs.’

The new chairman denied calls for a fresh approach were a criticism of his predecessor.  

‘I have nothing but total admiration for Dr Buckman’s chairmanship of GPC,' he said. ‘The government unfortunately decided to impose changes against the will of the profession, that is an action government took, it is not a reflection of the chairmanship of my predecessor. I hope the government too can think afresh and learn from last year.’

The imposed contract, Dr Nagpaul said, was already increasing bureaucracy in general practice and working against the interests of patients.‘Ultimately devaluing and defunding general practice, by forcing GPs to work  harder than they are able to, it’s patients that suffer,' he said.

Reaffirming his commitment to represent the ‘grassroots’ of the profession, Dr Nagpaul said GPs wanted the GPC to prioritise workload issues. ‘They are working above capacity,' he said. ‘They want to be respected, to be valued, and their tireless efforts taking care of patients to be recognised. These are the priority areas for me to address with government.’

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