The odds are against them, but GPs can defeat Jeremy Hunt

Hunt has said that people are dying because of a 'Monday to Friday' culture in the NHS

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The Independent Online

Jeremy Hunt has quickly established himself as a formidable opponent for doctors. He believes he is winning his battle against the NHS, just as MPs patted themselves on the back with an 11% pay rise.

The last time I underestimated someone a year younger than me was when I was nine, pitting my brains against the future British women's chess champion, Catherine Forbes, eight. I won't be doing that again.

Simply put, Hunt will not beat NHS GPs into submission with his latest imposition of a seven-day working contract. Here is how GPs can win out against a unilateral variation of an NHS GP contract, with an effete trade union in the wings, busy generating surveys.

Just like a game of chess, imagine NHS GPs as pawns that have lost their Queen, the British Medical Association. A queen could ballot its members on mass undated resignations from an unworkable and bankrupting government contract.

This move was effective in the past and won NHS GPs a generous 2004 contract that seemed like a Trojan Horse at the time. After all, who wouldn't accept a drop of £6,000 a year in surgery income to hand over out of hours cover for all their 1000s of patients?

So how do GPs win with all the odds stacked up against them? They are losing pawns, one by one, as GPs head for Australia, Canada, Qatar, America or even just change careers. Who can blame them? It’s £300,000 to work in Canada as an expat. It’s double pay and double the time with a patient to work in sunny Australia. It’s tax-free earnings in the Middle East. Or you stay in the NHS and face working as an assembly-line salaried NHS GP on an average pay of £57,000.

I use "assembly-line" because who in their right minds can consult with a patient, listen, ask questions, examine, type up a consultation, print forms, complete boxes all in 10 minutes? And before you say £57k is generous, MPs earn over £70k now, train drivers do not pay £8k discretionary indemnity or up to £30k indemnity for out of hours, our younger GPs face medical student loan repayments of up to £100k and a salaried GP may take home less than a family on tax-free benefits.

Plenty of NHS GP training placements remain vacant. Some clever young doctors fill posts to acquire the MRCGP degree, a golden ticket to Australia. This leaves a handful to serve the NHS as a salaried GP working Hunt's 7-day slave rota. No time and a half pay for weekends or the grave yard shift. These young and naive pawns may well be putting themselves at risk of a potential lawsuit or a GMC referral.

How can any GP safely consult and treat patients up to seven days a week when there are too many patients, the NHS is as cash-strapped as it is under-manned and hospitals and surrounding GP surgeries are closing their doors?

How to beat Hunt? Adopt American pioneer Dr Pamela Wible's model of the independent practitioner. Dentists regained their self-respect decades ago and it is time for GPs to do the same; charge on a sliding scale and determine your own terms and conditions. Do not be held to ransom by Hunt.

As women now outnumber male GPs, we will put our lives, wellbeing and families first. We refuse to live to work up to seven days a week; we choose to work to live and enjoy life. Check and mate Jeremy Hunt!

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