Thursday, 26 June 2014

A BMA emergency motion on BMA bear takes precedence over one in memory of a Liverpool NHS GP who ended his life

In memory of a Liverpool NHS GP who ended his life this year...

Last month, I wrote a facebook happy birthday wish to a Liverpool NHS GP colleague who would have turned 54. I wrote 'Happy Birthday x, hope you are surviving the NHS'. There was silence. Days later I received a facebook message from his son at university who had logged on and noticed a wall message from me and replied that his father had passed away in January of this year and later revealed that he had sadly ended his life.

I wept. I was tired of hearing from whistleblowers of needless NHS patient deaths at Northwick Park, Mid Staffs, Coventry, QEH and had campaigned with the grandmother QEH patient advocate Helen Ellis for transparency, a name of a hospital similar to the one where my baby brother had been taken and died. I was tired of reading how NHS GP surgeries were relentlessly targeted by government with financially unfeasible funding cuts and  GPs by daily media bashing. But now I was not just tired and depressed but ANGRY! The NHS had killed a dear friend of mine, a white male British Liverpool born and bred, schooled and trained GP who I had had the privilege of meeting in the summer of 2006 when he came to my home for a 4-day MRCGP course. He was 46, a mature GP registrar, and had felt awkward to be the oldest in the class of 20 so I reassured him and shared how old I was too, just looked younger. We smiled at our mature ages and late career changes. He excelled in each module, the multiple choice question, the written (male handwriting could have been a problem so we worked around this), the viva and the video/simulated surgery. He shone in the viva and this week I thought wow, if he had been up on the British medical association rep speaker podium, he would have wowed the audience with his eloquence. He went on to gain the MRCGP Distinction and the gold medal from the RCGP Faculty of Mersey for the highest MRCGP exam score as a GP registrar for Mersey Deanery. But instead of speaking up at ARM about the stresses of GP partnership and demanding industrial action to change and improve pay and working conditions, he had no more voice. And so I was more than determined to be HIS VOICE at the ARM!

BMA Annual Rep Meeting Harrogate June 22-26, 2014 

I ran for BMA Council to have the backs of all doctors. I had spent between 2010 and 2014 taking calls, emails and fighting for protection of whistleblowers and trainees referred to the GMC. I could see the flaws in the system and also the solutions. I could also see the solutions for the NHS consultant contract, the MPIG onslaught threatening the survival of the NHS and wanted so much to save patients and now doctors lives from needless deaths. Over 600 BMA members voted me to be their Council rep and so I went to the meeting armed with an emergency motion and consulted with the GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul who helped me draft the motion on behalf of NHS GPs. At the ARM, I met a NHS medical consultant and another GP who had known this Liverpool GP who had overdosed, was taken to hospital but did not make it. They told me they looked forward to me speaking up.

Proposed emergency motion by Dr Una Coales. Seconded by Dr A Desai (Walsall LMC Chair). Edited by Dr Chaand Nagpaul who informed me 'industrial action included strike, mass resignation or boycott also).

That this Meeting could not have envisaged before the closing date of submission of motions, the critical effect of MPIG cuts leading to 98 GP surgeries in England facing severe financial cuts and possible bankruptcy within the next few months brought to light by a public protest in June: as a result, general practice now faces an imminent domino effect that may lead to the full collapse of NHS general practice and

(i) calls on the BMA to let GPs as independent contractors invest in the NHS by opening the list to independent work like with dentists and removing the 10% cap on private earnings;

(ii) calls on the BMA to engage with the private practitioners subcommittee to help NHS GP surgeries remain solvent by adding income streams as government has left these vulnerable practices hung out to dry with no help;

(iii) requests the BMA to consider the results of a Pulse GP survey in May in which over half of GPs would consider a ballot on industrial action over funding cuts, as leverage to save GPs from bankruptcy and forced closure due to a financially unfeasible NHS GP contract to save NHS general practice.

Emergency bma arm motion

The agenda committee chair, GP Dr Helena McKeown, suggested editing it down even further (I questioned this saying but Chaand had helped me edit to what it was, and that it was in memory of a NHS GP partner who had taken his life?) and 2 days later, I was told by GP Dr Fay Wilson on the agenda committee that they had rejected it on the grounds that this was not an emergency and that the agenda committee did not take into consideration press surveys. I do not know what constitutes a trade union emergency, if the death of an overworked, stressed NHS GP partner, a financially unfeasible NHS GP contract, the imminent domino effect of NHS GP practice closures and collapse of the NHS is not deemed as an 'emergency' for this BMA annual representative meeting.

Instead on Thursday June 26, 2014, all 300 BMA ARM reps received this emergency motion on a BMA bear toy approved by the agenda committee to debate for 10 minutes with speakers for and against!

And so I reflected as I left the BMA ARM 4-day conference told reps could expense first class train/plane travel if travelling over 60 miles, 4-star hotel accommodation up to £127/night and £35 posh dinners (BMA President dinner, BMA chair dinner, ARM party and dinner) paid for by 153,000 BMA members, why the BMA appeared to have lost touch with its grassroots BMA members in my eyes?

Then I read this motion hidden in the shaded area of the agenda, as 'unlikely to be reached' which meant unlikely to be debated.

I asked a 71 year old NHS GP, how much was this NHS pension for older GPs? He replied that the older pension scheme had a cap of £1.8 million and he was allowed to cash out 3x the annual pension, now owns 12 properties (most he leases) and now receives a pension of £71.8k a year from the NHS as his GP pension but that the terms have changed for younger GPs (those aged under 50 in 2012) and the cap is now £1.25 million, younger GPs get less tax relief from pension contributions, and younger GPs have to pay more, will receive out less and have to work until 68-70 to cash.

Could it be that those with vested personal interests, i.e. cashing in on lucrative NHS pension arrangements that are now protected by the government for the next 10 years for GPs or NHS consultants who turned 50 or over in 2012, were reluctant for the BMA to take action against the NHS contract on behalf of the younger generation who did not have it so lucky, ie are paying the price in a recession with a national public deficit of over £1.2 trillion, unable to close practice lists, are now working 11-12 hour days, see minimum practice income guarantees slashed, called to be a 'named' GP for the elderly 24/7, asked to open 7 days a week, see MDO rates rise and now calls for advice may be considered similar to a claim and may affect premiums and are burning out and contemplating suicide?