Boycott extended hours to spike Brown's guns

Whereas prime minister Tony Blair might have been mistaken for a Tory, Gordon Brown is cast in the Stalinist-Maoist mould.

Like Pol Pot, he seems motivated by a deep-seated hatred of professionals. GPs have borne the brunt of that disdain: for two years we have been denied an inflationary pay award.

This year, we are expected to work longer hours for the same remuneration as last year. An average practice is looking at perhaps four hours' extra consulting per week on top of the contractual hours.

Is it not strange that a supposedly socialist government should wish to take away a substantial portion of small traders' income, only to give it to big businesses such as Boots and Lloyds? Added to which, it proposes to give them an even larger slice of the NHS cake in the form of additional services, most of which will increase our workload, when all the 'screened' patients come to us demanding investigation and referral.

How much more are we prepared to put up with before we withdraw our co-operation?

The obvious fact is that the government is not to be trusted as a negotiating partner, having gone back on its word so many times. Only hard talk and action will cut the mustard, and we must act now.

The first action should be for us collectively to turn our backs on extended hours, to show that it may impose a contract change but that we won't play along.

This will mean a £44 loss per week after expenses, taxes and deductions, a hit I am prepared to take for the principle as well as for the sake of work-life balance.

This is only the first skirmish of a war that must be fought if we are to preserve our dignity as well as our role of champions of our patients.

Every cut that weakens us destroys general practice and its proud tradition of guarding the interests of the vulnerable patient against the bean-counting administrator.

Dr Thomas Bloch, Broadway, Worcestershire.

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