BMA chair-elect Dr Chaand Nagpaul, addressing the union’s annual representative meeting (ARM) in Bournemouth for the last time as chair of its GP committee, suggested the profession could use the weakness of the minority government to reverse its health policies.
Dr Nagpaul, who was elected BMA chair last month after four years leading the GPC, said the return of a minority government ‘serves as a clear mandate to abandon the callous disregard of patients through austerity and cuts’.
‘Now is the time for us to stake our claim,’ he said.
Dr Nagpaul accused the government of having turned a ‘cruel blind eye to the needs of patients with continued savage cuts and austerity’ and ignoring NHS pleas for more resources.
The election result, he said, was a mandate ‘to respect the intelligence of the electorate and not hoodwink them with populist propaganda of being able to offer a consumerist service on Sundays when the NHS can’t survive the winter without support from the Red Cross'.
He added: ‘A mandate to invest properly in the NHS and plug the £10bn funding gap that separates us from European averages, and a mandate to finally give general practice the resources for GPs to provide safe quality care to patients and restore our professionalism.’
On Monday Dr Nagpaul accused the government of deliberately creating a crisis in the NHS to open the door to privatisation.
In his final speech as GPC chair Dr Nagpaul thanked his fellow executive members, the devolved nation GP committee chairs and other GPC members for their support and work representing the GP profession.
‘Representing the lifeblood of the NHS that is general practice has been an absolute honour which I am committed to continuing with vigour in my new wider remit at the BMA,' he said.
Dr Nagpaul, in his report to conference on the GPC’s work over the last year, said that despite the ‘financial brick wall’ imposed by the government, GP committees had worked hard to support the profession. Their efforts had secured NHS England acceptance of demands in the BMA's 'urgent prescription for general practice' document, and paved the way for ‘significant contract improvements for 2017/18, paying for rises in indemnity fees, full reimbursement of ludicrous CQC charges, and ending onerous bureaucratic workload by abolishing the unplanned admission enhanced service, and with the full £157m added to core GP budgets’.
Despite those gains, he said, the service remained ‘on the brink of collapse’ with demand outstripping capacity and creating unmanageable workloads for practices. The GPC’s efforts, therefore, said Dr Nagpaul, were focused on demand management and trying to release capacity, for example by securing changes to hospital contracts to end the requirement for GPs to re-refer patients who miss outpatient appointments.
Dr Nagpaul also restated his view that the GP Forward View published in April 2016 was ‘wholly inadequate’ and ‘insufficient to sustain general practice’.