The LMC conference was a 2 day festival of voting, slip-waving and speeches. Before I get carried away with what happened, I’m acutely aware that the whole thing is a mystery to many colleagues. So the basic guide is:
- All GPs across the UK are represented by their local medical committee (LMC). This should be made up of a variety of GPs in the area, partners and sessional, who then send representatives to the LMC conference every year. The idea is your LMC listens to you, and takes your views and concerns to conference.
- The LMC conference then discusses these issues, votes on them, and instructs the General Practitioners Committee (GPC – the next level up), on what we want it to do. The GPC is the GP part of the BMA, in the same way the Junior Doctors Committee (JDC) is their part of the BMA.
- The conference is meant to be a chance for the ordinary jobbing GP to have their voices heard by the people representing the profession.
This time, a whole range of topics were covered including funding and workload in general practice, the future general practice workforce, and reducing CQC and appraisal burden. It sounds strange to say the whole thing was exhausting, but sitting in a full conference room with speech after speech on all the many problems we are all facing left me feeling pretty frazzled.
The way the conference was run was a bit different this year, with lots of open discussion on a few key themes on the first day but no clear “yes/no” votes. Instead, we were asked to score on 1-6 how happy we were with the current approach of GPC. This wasn’t that easy, and it wasn’t clear what would happen if there were more 3s than 4s for a given discussion.
There was then a chance for smaller groups to discuss key topics, including training of a new GP workforce, with the contentious topic of non-GP practitioners coming up frequently. It got a bit easier with some of the straightforward votes on decent IT services being provided to practices, and the unrealistic expectations of a 7 day service. But as I type this I’m aware how unbearably dull it sounds, and how far removed from the stresses of daily practice.
The conference voted to reject the Department of Health’s attempts to fix a market price for locums, the compulsory monitoring of locum payments, and to cap locum fees in the future. There was a lot of focus on money and relative earnings in the debate, but ultimately it was great to see the conference supporting this and backing sessional GPs as part of the solution, not the problem.
The other big talking point was the debate on industrial action and undated resignations. This presents a potential challenge for sessional GPs, as our working arrangements mean we may not hold contracts to resign from, or we hold a contract with a practice and not centrally with NHS England. The conference voted for this motion, which means GPC needs to ballot all GPs on their willingness to undertake various forms of action up to and including contract breaches.
The challenges for the GPC are that they may not know your name, how to contact you, and that you are a sessional GP. And what alternatives will we as sessional GPs be presented with? It may be worth talking to practices you locum at regularly, or are employed by in a salaried capacity to make sure they are aware this will happen. If you work for a CCG, as an appraiser or in a portfolio role, what can you do to show support?
This is something that myself and the rest of the newly elected sessional subcommittee will undoubtedly be involved with, so please make your views known either directly or via the NASGP.
We need to make sure sessional GPs continue to grow in numbers at LMC and GPC events, to genuinely reflect the current workforce. If you’ve got any questions about getting involved, please get in touch.