The RCGP backs down

RCGP chair Clare Gerada

The backing-down of the Royal College of GPs from their previously-stated opposition to the NHS bill really shouldn’t really come as a huge surprise to those of us who want to see the Tories awful plans scrapped in their entirety, however disappointing it undoubtedly is. Non-union professional bodies are always hopelessly flaky when it comes to these things. They are always more concerned about protecting their short-term interests and not antagonising the government of the day.

It is slightly ironic though, when it comes hot on the heels of the revelation that GPs are devoting enormous amounts of their time and government money, time and government money that should be spent looking after their patients (you know, what they went to medical school to do) to carrying out the work required to ‘successfully’ implement the changes that the government has already embarked upon (even though the bill isn’t yet on the statute book………)

I blogged critically about Clare Gerada, the RCGP chair, last year when she wrote a very mealy-mouthed, self-righteous article that wrote that didn’t seem capable of making up its mind whether it opposed the bill or not.

Now we know. Gerada has written to the Prime Minister begging for a truce:

“Now is the time to restate our similarities rather than continually focus on our differences”.

Is it really? Why is it? Because you and your colleagues have given up Clare?

She ends the letter with some frankly embarrassing grovelling:

“We hope that, at the right time, you would feel able to meet to consider how the College can contribute to the issues we have in common.”

I think that however the RGCP want to describe what they are doing it is fairly obvious what we are witnessing: an abject capitulation.

Media reports suggest that Gerada, who has previously described the proposals as

“damaging, unnecessary and expensive reorganisation which risks leaving the poorest and most vulnerable in society to bear the brunt”

has come under pressure from her ‘moderate’ colleagues to tone down her opposition. It seems they want to be in the tent pissing out rather than outside throwing petrol and lighted matches on the tent. The exclusion of the RGCP from the recent Downing Street roundtable seems to have created a bit of a panic in the ranks. To them the bill is basically a fait accompli and they just want to get on with implementing it (which some of them may stand to benefit enormously from, incidentally……)

Which of course exactly what the Tories have been planning all along. They have systematically subverted the democratic process and rammed through many of these changes before they became law, making them extremely difficult to reverse. Opposition becomes pointless. It’s what governments do when they have no democratic mandate for their proposals and are instead satiating their corporate pay-masters desire for risk-free profit.

The battle over the bill has revealed many things of course, not least the all-round awfulness of Shirley Williams, but it has also served as a fascinating reminder of what middle and upper class sensibilities look like when they are out in the open. The fear of the RCGP, bordering on the pathological, of being at loggerheads with today’s political establishment is palpable. They may well be opposed to the bill but they are even more opposed to being publicly opposed to the bill. The RCGP, who Gerada stresses ‘aren’t a trade union’, are petrified of being labelled as ‘radical’ or ‘vitriolic’. I don’t know whether it is the conceit that they are above mere ‘politics’ that informs their behaviour or just desperately wanting to avoid anything that poses the slightest threat to their often cushy lives. Either way it is contemptible.

They would rather just accept what is happening than take a stand on an important point of principle. The NHS is being broken up and all they can offer is to ‘make whatever happens work’. They are probably fatally undermining what was a potentially strong coalition of opposition to the changes purely because they are worried about upsetting Downing Street.

So it’s full steam ahead with a bill that privatizes large swathes of our precious NHS.

Cheers Clare.

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