Interview: A successful comeback for Dr Beth McCarron-Nash

Recently re-elected GPC negotiator Dr Beth McCarron-Nash tells Marina Soteriou how she will fight for all types of GP.

Dr Beth McCarron-Nash last month beat three senior male GPs to win back the GPC negotiating post she lost last year.

'It takes guts,' she says of her comeback. 'It is very difficult to lose. It hurts. The people who were running were extremely gifted.'

Those she beat were former GPC Wales chairman Dr David Bailey, Devon LMC's Dr Mark Sanford-Wood and Essex LMCs chief executive Dr Brian Balmer.

Dr Beth McCarron-Nash
  • Cornwall GP
  • Became GPC's youngest negotiator, aged 35, in 2008
  • Voted off GPC negotiating team in 2012
  • Re-elected as a GPC negotiator on one-year term in 2013
  • Observer on RCGP council
  • Governance board member for Centre for Workforce Intelligence

Her departure last year left an all-male negotiating team, which did not fail to attract criticism from grassroots GPs.

Now there will be two women on the team, after Dr Charlotte Jones was appointed GPC Wales chairwoman two weeks before the UK-wide elections last month.

Dr McCarron-Nash is adamant that it was her experience that got her re-elected, not her gender.

'When the GPC voted, it already knew it had a female negotiator,' she says. 'The thing that made me different wasn't my gender, it was my experience and age. That is the experience a lot of younger GPs will recognise.'

At just 40, she has already been a salaried GP in GMS and PMS practices, been employed by a PCT to help struggling practices with their QOF scores and worked in deprived and rural areas.

Now she is a partner in a large PMS practice in Truro, Cornwall, with a list size of 12,000.

Family life

Like many GPs, she admits she has had to juggle work and family life. Her varied professional roles were a result of moving around the country when her husband was a pilot in the RAF. Taking on a partnership is now a possibility because he is currently a pilot for British Airways.

When she first became a negotiator five years ago, her husband went part-time to help look after their nine-year-old son.

'Just like a lot of professional couples, you have to juggle,' she says. She jokes that her son would rather be a pilot than a GP. 'He says: "I don't want to be a GP like my mummy because she works too hard.".'

New team

Her re-election will mean working even harder, but she says her drive and commitment will help see her through. The negotiating team under new GPC chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul is 'very strong', she adds.

She has worked very closely with Dr Nagpaul during her four years as a negotiator. 'He is a lovely man and an excellent negotiator,' she says.

'Although it may be some of the same team, it is a different dynamic and it is a different team.'

Dr McCarron-Nash looks forward to working with newcomer Dr Jones, whom she calls a 'friend and a colleague' and whose children are friends of the family.

Soon the GP workforce will be predominantly salaried, part-time and female, Dr McCarron-Nash says. She hopes her varied roles will help her to secure a fair deal for all types of GP.

'I'm not just someone who swans off to London two days a week and doesn't know what it is really like,' she argues.

She is conscious not to criticise the GPC over this year's contract imposition, saying that it is hard to negotiate with a government that isn't interested in negotiating.

'I want to see the negotiating team much more visible to grassroots GPs, so they know what happened instead of being fed misinformation.'

The task of the negotiators now is to show the government GPs remain the 'solution, not the problem'.

'Not negotiating with us will not get it what it wants,' she argues. 'We all want a general practice that is invigorated. What we disagree about is how to get there.'

She accuses the government of stoking up the public's expectations of general practice, when it revealed that GP access was likely to feature in contract negotiations this year.

'There is a big difference between want and need. We are not funded for want.'

Workforce

Like the RCGP, whose council she sits on as an observer, she is worried that general practice is heading for a workforce crisis.

'There hasn't been a national workforce survey commissioned since 2009,' she says. 'It seems crazy. There should be UK planning. We have been lobbying hard for it not to just be up to the local education and training boards. It is unacceptable that we devolve that to a local level.'

She adds: 'I would like to see a general practice where younger doctors want to join and older ones aren't looking for the exit.'

For this to be achieved, the government needs to stop 'hammering' GPs with more targets, she says.

'They have to listen to us post-Francis. This is the time to sit up and listen.'

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