Guest opinion: The next 12 months will not be dull

In the NHS, 2012 will be remembered for two events - legislation that allowed fundamental changes to be implemented in England, and the first UK-wide industrial action by doctors in four decades.

Dr Chand: public discontent will grow
Dr Chand: public discontent will grow

At the start of 2012, opposition to the Health Bill was gathering pace. In January, my e-petition had 30,000 signatures. By February, more than 150,000 people had signed up. Sadly, neither the tidal wave of public protest nor the opposition of the BMA and most other organisations representing NHS staff prevented the Bill from being passed, but we should be proud that we took a stand against this unnecessary, expensive and disruptive piece of legislation. I believe that, as the public sees how much more bureaucratic the NHS has become, with the new commissioning process creating barriers to the usual comprehensive care we want to offer patients, and as more and more foundation trusts struggle to balance their books, discontent will grow.

In 2013, our main focus will be on minimising the potential for damage (in the worst cases, GPs will be the agents of cuts) and trying to make the most of the potential benefits (the freedom to shape services for patients). A lot of this will depend on the nuts and bolts of how CCGs operate, for example, the detail of their constitutions.

Industrial action was never going to be easy: GPs had to express their anger without compromising patient care. The government had gambled on the fact that no doctor would put their patients' health in jeopardy. However, the fact that we took unified, unprecedented action left the government and the public in no doubt about the level of anger among GPs and other doctors at the utterly unfair attack on the NHS pension scheme. This fight is not over, and in 2013 we'll lobby against the pensions Bill in the House of Lords and continue to campaign against the increase in the normal pension age. The recent letter from the health secretary, while not being a U-turn, offers some hope that he recognises the validity of our arguments about pension contributions in the post-2015 scheme.

For GPs, the year ended with many challenges - pensions, commissioning, a renegotiation of pay that seems very one-sided, tight budgets and revalidation. At least 2013 will not be a dull year.

  • Dr Kailash Chand is a GP and BMA deputy chairman

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