Guest Editorial - Time to make a difference to patients' lives

Another RCGP annual conference is over, and I want to begin by giving my enormous thanks to everyone who made the event such a spectacular one.

This includes the staff at the college, the speakers, the almost 1,500 delegates and, of course GP, whose coverage was once again second-to-none.

It's an exhausting, exhilarating event, and not one without drama: protesters and delegates alike were making their concerns about the ramifications of the Health Bill abundantly clear. The passion on display from delegates questioning health secretary Andrew Lansley - addressing the conference for the second year running - was clear. You certainly didn't give him an easy ride but I was pleased that you gave him all due respect as our guest, and while you grilled him, you did it graciously.

This passion made me think - and not only because it was central to my speech - that the theme of the conference really was the importance of care over cost; of how important it is that we give our patients the best possible quality of care even in the face of financial pressures and 'efficiency savings'. I said in my speech that if we want to keep serving the best interests of our patients, we must reject the language of the market and embrace the language of caring; GPs don't come into the profession to juggle balance sheets, they come into it because they want to provide care, and that is something we must never lose sight of.

But our passion must not be confined to a three-day event in Liverpool, and now, with the conference over, it is time to look to the future, and towards achieving three goals: getting more GPs, spending more time with our patients, and securing longer, enhanced GP training.

These are not impossible dreams and, if achieved, will improve even more the care that we provide to patients. If the conference showed us anything, it is that we are not lone voices, and I really do believe that if we work together, and in collaboration with our specialist and third sector colleagues we can really make this happen.

We become doctors because we want to make a difference to the lives of our patients. We're facing a huge challenge, but it's time to step up and show that by working together we can achieve this.

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