Editorial - Lord Warner steps up into the line of fire

It will be a brave Lord Warner who steps up to the podium at the LMCs conference in London next week. Apparently, it's the first time in living memory that a minister has put themselves up for a grilling by the massed ranks of GP politicians.

Does he not remember the reception that his boss received from the nurses?

Maybe he's expecting a warmer welcome from doctors. Surely those pillars of the community will be more respectful than that rabble of nurses ...

And all GPs are earning £250,000 a year now so what do they have to complain about? Perhaps he should have read the agenda before accepting the invitation.

There are several motions actually calling for the resignation of two of his colleagues. Maybe he should have looked back a couple of years to the last time someone vaguely from the government tried to 'engage' LMCs at their annual conference.

In 2004, the then deputy chief medical officer Aidan Halligan appeared at the event in his newly-acquired role as joint director general of the National Programme for IT. His extra brief was to improve communications between the ailing, secretive programme and the GPs that it had lost along the way. Unfortunately, he gave a speech of such pomposity that delegates immediately rejected his overtures as 'insulting and patronising'. Six months later he resigned from the post to return to Ireland. Food for thought for Lord Warner?

We are not suggesting that GP representatives will be waiting for him in warpaint. Indeed, the last thing we need is a lot of rhetorical hot air. There are a great number of concerns among GPs about the direction, implementation and fallout from the latest NHS reforms, and LMCs will carry their questions to London with an even greater sense of responsibility in the knowledge that they will at last have the ear of the minister.

He is the guest of the conference and should be treated with respect.

But the respect has to be mutual. We need to hear real answers to real questions. And who knows - maybe next year Patricia Hewitt will take the bait.

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