GPs threaten strike action over pay

GPs could go on strike if the DoH or devolved governments anywhere in the UK try to strip the Doctors and Dentists Pay Review Body (DDRB) of its powers to set GP pay.

GPC chairman Dr Hamish Meldrum
GPC chairman Dr Hamish Meldrum

LMCs backed a motion calling for the BMA to develop a strategy including the option of industrial action if governments 'adversely change the remit' of the review body. GPC chairman Dr Hamish Meldrum backed the move, warning that GPs had to keep 'the ultimate weapon' as an option.

But LMCs rejected a call for immediate industrial action, because of fears that it would be impossible without affecting patients.

Buckinghamshire LMC member Dr Gill Beck told the 2007 LMCs conference that a vote for industrial action would empower the GPC to take a stronger line against the DoH pay freeze, which amounted to a 5 per cent cut in real terms.

'We need to decide what help we will give the GPC - are we prepared to take action against the government?' she asked.

East Sussex LMC member Dr Russell Brown also backed immediate action: 'We hear there is little appetite for industrial action and that it should be kept in reserve for bigger battles. But what bigger battles are there than the level of funding for the service we are committed to?'

He denied a call for industrial action was 'rabble rousing'. 'It would just let the DoH know that we might do it. We have to take action in the interests of our patients,' he said.

But LMCs threw out the plan after GPC chairman Dr Hamish Meldrum said it risked undermining patient support for GPs: 'Patient support is what gives us huge strength. I don't believe there are true types of industrial action that would not affect patients. I don't detect huge support for this among the profession, and it could alienate patients.'

But support to maintain the threat of industrial action if the DDRB's powers were cut was strong. Gwent LMC member Dr David Grant said GPs had fared well under the DDRB in recent years, despite the pay freeze it endorsed for 2007/8.

'We should not sacrifice the ability to use this body based on one unsatisfactory outcome. Asking the DDRB to apply annual increases prevents NHS Employers having the opportunity to tie these uplifts to new work,' he said.

nick.bostock@haymarket.com

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