Anger management time in Bloomsbury

Anyone seeking sunshine and smiles may be well advised to avoid Bloomsbury in London next week when the LMCs Conference comes to town.

Health secretary Patricia Hewitt in particular should steer clear, with motions attacking the pay freeze and government spin, let alone a motion of no confidence in both her and the government's handling of the NHS - all due before elevenses on day one. But it won't be an easy ride for the GPC leadership either.

In a masterful example of understatement, the press invitation to the event promises that 'this year's conference should be more lively than ever'. It certainly looks that way, with the agenda a litany of all those issues that are causing anger and frustration in surgeries across the land.

And, judging by the agenda, LMCs are angry, very angry indeed, about everything from pensions and pay, to the inadequacies of training, workforce planning and premises funding. Then there are the failures of practice-based commissioning and Choose and Book, let alone the National Care Record debacle.

From time to time, ministers will ask why GPs are so unhappy. Perhaps they should take the time to read the LMCs' motions in full to understand the effects of DoH initiatives on morale.

But being angry and writing motions is not enough; GPs need a channel for their frustrations and a way of getting their point across outside GP circles, or else all that next week offers is an outlet for hot air.

That means taking on the DoH spin-machine, finding effective forms of protest and getting tough in negotiations.

Clearly this is something LMCs representatives have already realised, with motions claiming that the GPC and BMA have failed to counter the bad publicity aimed at GPs and calling for a propaganda campaign to show all the good points of UK general practice.

Overall there is an undercurrent of dissatisfaction with the GPC leadership and, as with the protests over MTAS and the resignation of BMA chairman Jim Johnson, an appetite for protest.

GP recently wrote of the need for strong leadership at the BMA, and this view is also reflected by the LMCs which are set to debate 'the effectiveness of the BMA as a trade union' and the need for 'the GPC to provide effective leadership and clear direction to the profession'.

We are set for a change at the top of the BMA. To restore the faith of BMA members, the new leaders must take heed of this agenda and formulate a new approach to negotiations that address GPs' concerns in an effective manner.

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