80% demand national action over pay freeze

Four GPs out of five think the GPC was wrong not to organise national action against the pay freeze, and half want chairman Dr Hamish Meldrum to quit, a GP survey shows. Nearly nine out of 10 said the GPC was ‘not doing enough to counter bad press and DoH briefing against GPs’.

Of 167 grass-roots GPs who took part in the survey, 80 per cent opposed the GPC’s decision not to take national action.

Fifty per cent said Dr Meldrum should resign for failing to negotiate a pay rise.

Dr Meldrum rejected calls for him to go: ‘I don’t feel under pressure to resign, in the sense that I have gone back on my word — I haven’t.

‘What I said about resigning at last year’s LMCs conference has been misreported.

‘I was responding to a debate, along the lines of: “We agreed to the 2006/7 deal to address the perception that the GP contract had overdelivered, and if I agreed to another year of taking on more unfunded work I may have to think about resigning.”’

Dr Meldrum said he had not gone back on his word because he had not agreed to the pay freeze in 2007/8 — it had been imposed.

He added that a GPC call for national action, such as boycotting a particular service, would amount to industrial action. The GPC would have to ballot the profession to do this, he said.

‘We thought this would just reopen the debate about GP pay. The press has not been sympathetic, and I don’t think there would be huge public support for industrial action,’ he said.

GPC member Dr John Canning said Dr Meldrum had not achieved what he would have wanted, but had done as well as he could have.

‘It was always going to be a difficult year — there was no other way out of this,’ said Dr Canning.

The survey findings follow GPC guidance setting out how practices can become more efficient to combat rising costs, published last week.

It says practices can reject any new work that is not fully resourced, and consider closing patient lists or dropping any local enhanced services that are underpaid or unfunded.

Primary care organisations described the guidance as ‘shocking’. David Stout, director of the NHS Confederation PCT Network, said: ‘The GPC is threatening to impact on patient care and derail the NHS improvement programme as part of its pay negotiations. We hope that the majority of GPs won’t follow the advice.’

He said the guidance was ‘short-sighted’ and that cutting services would anger patients.

However, the GP survey suggests many practices will take action to demonstrate their anger at the pay freeze.

GP engagement with key DoH initiatives including Choose and Book, practice-based commissioning (PBC), and the national programme for IT could collapse.

Two thirds of GPs who responded to the survey will boycott Choose and Book.

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