Representatives threw out a motion suggesting that GPs should take back out-of-hours care, just a day after Mr Hunt said he would overhaul the GMS contract to enforce primary care reforms that will return the responsibility to GPs.
Conference also passed a motion agreeing with Mr Hunt’s comments that GPs are ‘patients’ champions’, that NHS staff are working harder than ever before, and that targets are getting in the way of caring for patients.
GPC chairman Dr Laurence Buckman said a no confidence vote was ‘attacking the person, not the policies’ and would be seen as ‘they would say that, wouldn’t they’.
In a heated, and at times chaotic debate, Dr Buckman said he understood the anger of frustration of GPs, but said there were elements of Mr Hunt’s announcement that GPs would welcome. He asked conference to set ‘forward looking’ policy for GPC, and called on representatives to ‘think of the consequences’ of their votes.
A motion which would have reversed existing GPC policy that GPs will not take back out-of-hours responsibility, and which set funding conditions for GPs to agree to take responsibility back, was roundly rejected.
GPs lined up to make it clear there were no circumstances under which they would agree to take back out-of-hours.
One GP said if the profession agreed to take back the service ‘most GPs over 50 would resign’.
‘Over my dead body’, was the simple message from another representative.
The no confidence vote was rejected by 60% of representatives.
Dr Marcus Bicknell said it was ‘time to call for the head of Hunt’, who he described as the ‘worst health secretary in living memory’, a man who ‘makes Ken Clarke look like the Messiah’.
Dr Gerard Reissmann from Newcastle asked ‘how bad do things have to get?’ ‘I suspect most of us have no confidence in Hunt,' he said, and a no confidence vote would ‘show the public we are fighting for the NHS’.
But Dr Ivan Camphor from Mid Merseyside said passing the motion would be self-defeating, and would not ‘portray the profession in a good light’.
He said GPs ‘need to build bridges with the government, not break them’.
John Grenville of Derbyshire LMC told conference to be careful what it wished for, warning that a vote of no confidence, with the implication the health secretary should resign, could end up with Michael Gove in the role.