Junior doctor strikes will not have major impact on GP services, says GPC

Strike action by junior doctors will not significantly affect services delivered by practices despite thousands of GP trainees joining the walkout, GP leaders say.

Junior doctors in Nottingham during protests last year
Junior doctors in Nottingham during protests last year

Many of the 9,000-odd GP trainees in England are likely to join strikes by junior doctors on 12 January, after 98% of junior doctors voted in favour of industrial action last year.

Concerns have been raised that practices would be left short of capacity with the loss of consultations delivered by junior doctors, with the following tweet coming in response to a BBC Radio 4 call question about how NHS services would be affected:

But GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey told GPonline practices should not be relying on trainees because the training contract was clear that they should be 'supernumerary'.

Read more: How GPs can support junior doctors

He added that GPs were 'overwhelmingly supportive' of the action junior doctors are taking.

'It shouldn’t have a major impact,' he said. 'Training practices should ensure trainees are supernumerary. There will be some appointments lost, but the trainer will have a day without having to supervise anyone.'

Dr Vautrey said that although a trainee may get through a similar number of appointments per day to a fully qualified GP towards the end of their training, this was likely to be largely balanced out by more junior trainees in the practice and appointment time lost to the GP trainer supervising them.

'The training contract is clear - trainees are supernumerary. There are also, of course, many practices who do not have one at all. It is different from a hospital, where trainees are a clear service capacity element.'

Dr Vautrey added that advice from NHS England was unlikely to have an impact on practice workload.

Advice from NHS England to patients warns that 'hospitals are expected to be under additional pressure', and that as a result 'where possible, people should contact their GP, seek advice from their local pharmacist, call NHS111 or consult the NHS Choices website'.

Dr Vautrey said this was unlikely to affect practices, and dismissed as 'nonsense' NHS England advice for patients who need a GP appointment to 'organise it before industrial action begins'.

'GP appointments will continue to be made as normal, and practices will continue to see patients as they normally do,' he said.

Estimates from NHS England say that around 4,000 elective procedures will be cancelled due to industrial action on 12 January. A total of 1,425 inpatient cases are expected to be cancelled and 2,535 day case procedures.

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