While I've gained myself a reputation as an impatient hothead, they listen patiently to tales of woe from fellow GPs, and then languidly explain why direct action - or current action of any sort - will prove totally counterproductive. Their conversations are redolent of Sir Humphrey in Yes, Minister: it's not the right time; the right people aren't yet in post; we await a committee's report and shouldn't prejudge its findings. Indeed, the real time for action will be next year or the next. Possibly.
And nothing gets done.
I can only assume this is some form of test: just how supine can doctors become in the face of provocation? Pass this exam and you too could become a medical politician.
So I am not surprised Dr Meldrum and the GPC don't believe GPs have any appetite for industrial action. No matter that we've had our pensions capped, our pay frozen so deeply that it's a significant pay cut, extra work added on, no money for premises, allowances for registrars reduced, and a vicious government media campaign to denigrate us.
No, the imperturbable Dr Meldrum wishes only to ask in principle whether we might like to withdraw from Choose and Book as a protest - in the fullness of time, you understand, when consultation has ended.
Well I have news for him. The vast majority of GPs are incensed about each of these problems, to say nothing of extended opening hours or the reworking of the MPIG. Each represents a significant threat to primary care: together they should rouse even the most somnolent GPC.
GPs want action, and we want it now. The very public protests about Modernising Medical Careers got speedy results and a grovelling apology from Patricia Hewitt. Can't the GPC emulate these methods - act swiftly, highlight the problem, and get the profession and the public involved?
Apparently not. Ah well - what do I know? I don't have the GPC's subtle gifts of diplomacy. If I will just be patient and wait a few years then all will become clear. In the
fullness of time we will all find that the time for action has long passed.
Thank you, Sir Humphrey.
- Dr Lancelot is a GP from Lancashire. Email him at GPcolumnists@haymarket.com