GPs from Tower Hamlets in east London are meeting today to hand out information leaflets to patients about why doctors are taking industrial action for the first time in almost 40 years, along with their hospital colleagues.
BMA Tower Hamlets chairwoman and Tower Hamlets GP Dr Jackie Applebee explained that GPs would be able to take part because the practice’s protected learning time, which had been scheduled for Thursday afternoon, had been cancelled.
‘It would be really good to get 30 to 50 people to come down,’ Dr Applebee said.
Prior to the rally Dr Applebee said she would be in her practice, seeing any patients who considered themselves to be an emergency but not doing any work that was ‘safe to put off’.
Dr Applebee said she thought it was important for GPs to fight the NHS pension reforms, because they were just part of wider government cuts to the public sector.
‘This is about pensions but it’s not just about our pensions, it about the pensions of all public sector workers.’
‘This is about a much bigger picture. This is about defending the NHS and defending the public sector.’
Elsewhere in the country GPs have been less keen to take part in the action.
A survey by GP has found that just 20% of practices across the country will take industrial action today. Of the 22 PCTs and LMCs contacted by GP, most were able to provide a figure for the number of practices taking part in industrial action. The figures revealed that out of 2,205 practices 443 will be taking some form of industrial action today.
PCTs that were unable to give a number for those taking part, such as the Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire PCT cluster, said that the majority of GP practices were not taking part in industrial action.
Central London GP Dr John Cosgove said that he was in favour of industrial action but would not be taking part. ‘Personally I am not, I was not scheduled to work that day,' he said.
‘In my practice there were one or two others that wanted to take action but the practice will be open as normal. The partners felt quite strongly that we should not be taking action,’ he said.
Despite not taking action himself, Dr Cosgove said he said he supported doctors who did.
‘I think we did need to send a signal because it was not long ago that the pension deal was renegotiated.’
He said that despite fears, he did not think that action taken by GPs would affect patient care.
‘I can’t see how it would – at most it might inconvenience patients a little.'
However London GP Dr Sebastian Kalwij said he was against GPs taking industrial action.
He said: ‘I am against the strike and I will see patients, as planned on that day, some have booked weeks ago and it wouldn't be fair on them to cancel their appointment.’
‘I work in Deptford/New Cross where levels of deprivation are high and going on strike over a pension which seems very generous in the eyes of the public would give the wrong signal.’