Editorial: BMA and RCGP split over GPs' future

It's hard to imagine a busier fortnight in general practice to reflect on. This issue features details of the new 2015/16 GP contract (page six), prime minister David Cameron's desire for greater seven-day general practice access and Labour's plans for hospitals to employ salaried GPs.

Key will be the results of the Health Education England report into how many GPs are needed, area by area, announced by health secretary Jeremy Hunt at the RCGP's annual conference in Liverpool this month.

Although, frankly, it beggars belief that this is only just happening now, given how obvious the shortage of GPs has become.

GP was media partner for the three-day RCGP event in Liverpool and our coverage includes exclusive video of the speeches and GP question and answer sessions given by both Mr Hunt and NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens.

Speaking in a personal capacity at the Labour conference in Manchester last month, GP columnist and BMA deputy chairman Dr Kailash Chand (see below) warned Labour was the only party which could save the NHS from extinction.

RCGP chairwoman Dr Maureen Baker's response to Labour's plans for GPs to become salaried employees of hospital-led integrated care organisations could not have been more different - Dr Baker said they wouldn't work and threatened the existence of general practice.

This difference raises questions about the BMA and how representative of GPs an organisation can be when it also includes consultants.

The atmosphere at the RCGP annual conference certainly seemed more positive than at recent BMA events, the RCGP even appearing to win a promise of a 'substantial' primary care investment increase from Mr Stevens and 'a new deal' for GPs - territory once the preserve of the GPC.

The difference between Conservative and Labour policies on the NHS and general practice is now quite clear. If GPs were asked if they preferred the approach taken by the RCGP or the BMA, however, one wonders which they would choose.

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