Senior BMA figures are drawing up plans to ballot the profession ‘by crafts’, setting out forms of action appropriate for specific groups of members.
BMA leaders are also seeking further advice on the legality of forms of industrial action.
At an emergency meeting on 25 February, BMA Council agreed to ballot on industrial action short of a strike. BMA pensions committee deputy chairman Dr David Bailey has said the ballot is likely to follow ‘within weeks’.
Under industrial action law, the BMA must notify employers, including GP practices, of plans to ballot seven days before the first voting paper is sent out.
A GP poll last month revealed types of action GPs were prepared to take, such as working to rule or emergency-only service.
GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said any action by the BMA would be designed to limit its effect on care. ‘That is why the suggestion of strike action was rejected. We need to try to ensure we keep patients involved and on our side,’ he said.
Dr Vautrey added that the decision to ballot was made reluctantly and there was ‘every chance’ it would be called off if the government entered into meaningful talks. If the BMA takes action, it must start within four weeks of the ballot closing.
Health secretary Andrew Lansley said: ‘There is no justification for industrial action – it would harm patients. No concessions will be won through these threats.’