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My first experience of the BMA was at its annual junior members forum. Seduced by the promise of a free hotel, the chance to rant and a generously supplied ‘networking event’ that would last well into the night, I went along, open-minded.
But, instead of the dull contract-chat I had expected, the whole event was entrancing. I heard trainees fiercely arguing against exploitation at work. I felt impassioned by the range of debate, from perinatal mental health to our response to the Ebola crisis. I met fascinating, inspiring junior doctors from across the four nations.
And the ‘networking event’ was very well supplied.
Currently, I’m a GPST3, outdoors enthusiast, avid Game of Thrones fan and newly elected GP trainee chair at the BMA. Cathartic though working with the BMA has been, I still have my bugbears. At the LMC England conference last month, we had a shot at one of the big ones: GP Out-Of-Hours (OOH).
Local medical committees (LMCs) are independent, self-financing groups of local GP representatives which support local GPs (and registrars) in all matters, including local contracts, disputes, prescribing queries, partnership affairs and others. The LMC conference is where they have their say in the work of the BMA.
This year, discussions were heated around technology-enhanced consultations, following the controversy around Babylon/DoctorAtHand. Personally, I hate telephone consultations. I’ve brought too many patients into surgery, feeling the instant relief at ‘casting an eye over’, to know that telephone consultations can come at a high anxiety-cost. Therefore, I actually rather like the idea of Skype in my consultation room – but general practice is not one-size-fits-all and new technologies should be encouraged but not imposed.
Telegraph readers were panicking this year about a motion suggesting the BMA support desperate GPs wanting to go private. Before you tear up your national training number though, I can reassure you that general practice hasn’t given up the fight yet and an explosive debate ensured this motion was voted down.
And then out-of-hours. My experience of OOH has always been very positive, so I was stunned when I heard that in Scotland, trainees can receive as little as two hours’ notice of their OOH shifts. Or that in England, an ST1 was given a one-hour induction and then left to telephone triage without supervision and pressurised to speed up her calls.
We’re working with Health Education England to review OOH training but the deputy of our committee, Dan Djemal, did an excellent job arguing the case for fair, appropriately supervised, training-focussed OOH at the LMC England conference.
Despite these challenges and the doom and gloom picture of current general practice, I believe that GP trainees have a strong hand to play. The recruitment crisis has strengthened the trainee voice and transformation within the NHS has empowered us to shape how our future careers may look.
Your GP trainee reps are still fighting, tooth and nail, for better, fairer, safer training for all GP trainees and you can help us by sharing your stories, concerns, ideas and keeping abreast of the issues facing us now. I hope you’ll stand with us, and your patients, through this uncertain time and help us to shape the future of our profession together.
We are one profession.
Tom Micklewright is chair of the GP trainees subcommittee
Follow him on Twitter