Practices were warned in a letter sent out to all London practices this week they face payment stoppages and could receive a ‘formal contract breach notice’ if they fail to provide essential services in core hours because of the BMA’s planned industrial action on 21 June.
This comes after BMA Council members made the decision to take industrial action over pension changes rather than strike action on 30 May after a ballot of its members revealed 78% of its GPs backed industrial action on a turn-out of 53%.
The letter from PCTs which the DH said it had no part in, states services which should be delivered in core hours should be:
- Essential services.
- Additional services funded under the global sum at such times, within core hours, as are appropriate to meet the reasonable needs of its patients.
- And to have in place arrangements to access such services throughout the core hours in case of emergency.
It goes on to say that any practices which fail to provide a service during core hours on the day of action will be regarded as having been in breach of contract ‘even if the individual participating in that industrial action carries out the majority of work he or she would normally undertake’.
Practices have been asked to return a form to the PCT stating what ‘level of service’ they intend to deliver on 21 June.
A NHS London spokesman said: 'Our priority is to care for patients and we have written to all GP practices in London to seek assurance that they will continue to fulfil their contractual responsibilities. Doctors in London are committed to putting patients first and we would urge unions and staff to think carefully about the affect on their patients before taken action on 21 June. All NHS organisations are looking at the potential impact of any action on patient care and preparing for this.'
A Primary Care Trust Network spokesperson said PCTs could vary in their decision to withhold payments. They said: ‘There is no doubt that industrial action taken by GPs could lead to a breach of contract. But that would depend on the nature of the action and the detail of the contract with the practice. As a result, individual PCTs may take different approaches on what action to take and whether to withhold payment to GPs.’
A spokesperson for the BMA was unavailable to comment at the time of going to press.