Editorial: The BMA is struggling to represent GPs

The GP team spent two days in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, this month, producing daily editions for the annual RCGP conference.

The best of this coverage features in this issue of GP, including an exclusive interview with Dr Maureen Baker, the next RCGP chairwoman (page 28).

In Dr Baker's most telling quote, she says: 'It would be fantastic if the BMA were to say the government should take money from one sector and give it to another, but it has to represent all disciplines. The college is concerned with general practice alone.'

Current RCGP chairwoman Professor Clare Gerada led the BBC news on the conference's opening day with the demand for emergency funding to repair the £400m 'black hole' resulting from persistent cuts to general practice funding over the past three years.

Where are the big ideas to tackle rising GP stress and workload coming from? In our previous issue, GP reported Professor Gerada's idea for integrated provider co-operatives bringing primary and secondary care providers together with a pooled budget, with GPs employed as not-for-profit shareholders. She has also suggested that GPs' independent contractor status should be relinquished to achieve integration of primary and secondary care.

The GPC's negotiating position in recent years appears to have been to dig in its heels, in an attempt to stop erosion of the funding streams flowing into general practice.

With the political party conference season over, there is a growing chasm between Conservatives and Labour on CCGs: Mr Hunt would have GPs in control and Mr Burnham would pass responsibility to health and wellbeing boards. The Tories' push for seven-day GP opening fuels patient expectations when the funds to make it happen are scarce.

What is surprising is that it is the RCGP, not the BMA, leading the argument for transferring funds from secondary to primary care and the difficult debate about the future of general practice.

The BMA might struggle less to represent GPs if it weren't quite so hamstrung by defending the interests of their secondary care colleagues.

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