Exclusive: Two thirds of GPs want BMA ballot on industrial action, poll reveals

Almost two thirds of GPs want the BMA to ballot the profession over industrial action, a GPonline survey has revealed, as LMCs prepare for next month's emergency conference.

In an exclusive GPonline survey of more than 650 GPs, more than 40% said they would support industrial action involving the refusal to carry out non-core work.

Almost 40% of GPs said they were prepared to take part in action short of a full strike, such as refusing to carry out all but urgent and emergency work.

Just a quarter of GPs surveyed said they would not support industrial action at all.

GP industrial action

Support for industrial action by the profession in the face of the ongoing workload, workforce and funding crisis comes ahead of the emergency conference of LMCs next month. Local GP leaders are preparing demands for consideration at the crisis summit in London on 30 January.

An agenda for the LMC crisis conference will be published on 14 January. The GPC has said the conference should ‘focus attention on what actions are needed to ensure GPs can deliver a safe and sustainable service.'

A letter to LMCs said that 'no business shall be considered at the special conference other than to decide what actions are needed to ensure GPs can deliver a safe and sustainable service'.

President of Doctors in Unite/Medical Practitioners Union Dr Ron Singer said support for action was a reflection of a funding crisis in the NHS. GPs, he said, had been inspired by their junior doctor colleagues.

Junior doctor strikes

Dr Singer, a former GPC member, said there was ‘no question’ industrial action by GPs was possible if doctors’ leaders focus on a single issue ‘worth going to the wall about’.

‘The reason that is even more of a possibility now is because junior doctors showed that the public is behind them taking industrial action about the state of the NHS focused on a particular issue’, the union leader said. 

‘The BMA must take heart from the trail the junior doctors have blazed,' he added. 

One GP who responded to the survey said: ‘I have never consider any form of industrial action until now. We are at all stretched to breaking point and still they want to put more on us. They want us to be blamed when the NHS collapses-it's basically like watching a very slow train crash and there's nothing that can be done about it.’

GP crisis

Another added: ‘GPs are too committed as a group to vote for industrial action and the government knows that. The BMA should support us in boycotting things that divert our time and resources from clinical care eg CQC, admission avoidance.’

But one GP who was more sceptical about action said: ‘My concern is that the press and government have painted such an unfavourable picture of GPs over the past few years that I am not sure any industrial action will be so favourably supported by the public in the way junior doctors have been. I hope I am wrong in this but the "overpaid and underworked" message is sadly fairly widespread, notwithstanding the high ratings GPs still receive in surveys.’

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