BMA chair will support GPs' decision in industrial action ballot

BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul has said he would support the democratic decision of practices if they vote in favour industrial action.

BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul (Photo: JH Lancy)

In his first full interview since taking up the position last month, the former GPC chair told GPonline that he would support the ‘democratic process’ of the union if practices indicate they want to proceed with proposals for a collective list closure.

An indicative ballot of practices closed last week, although the result has yet to be announced.

A poll by GPonline days before the month-long ballot closed indicated the result could be on a knife edge, with 49% against action to 51% in favour, but with no majority for either of the two proposed forms of action.

Practices were asked to say whether they would be prepared collectively to suspend new patient registrations temporarily and/or apply to their commissioner for a formal list closure, as a form of industrial action.

The ballot was agreed by LMC representatives at their annual conference earlier this year who said the GP Forward View is 'failing to deliver the resources necessary to sustain general practice'.

Speaking to GPonline last month newly elected GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey said he was prepared to lead industrial action if practices say they want it.

Formal ballot

The GPC has said that if the indicative ballot shows most practices in England support the proposed action it will ask BMA council to review the results and consider steps to conduct a formal ballot on industrial action.

Asked whether, as council chair, he would support practices if they vote in favour of action Dr Nagpaul said the BMA ‘has always been supportive of the profession through each branch practice’.

‘The BMA respects that, so that's not an issue,' he said.

He added: ‘There is a BMA council that obviously is involved, but I have no intention of doing anything other than working with the way the BMA has always worked, like it did the juniors, which is to support the democratic process.’

Dr Nagpual said the ‘mere fact’ the ballot was happening ‘speaks volumes’ about the frustration of GPs. ‘I believe that [with] the GP Forward View, the biggest problem we've got is it's still operating with an inadequate NHS budget’, he said.

The BMA chair added that practices are already able, as highlighted by the GPC’s Quality FIrst programme, to temporarily close their lists if they believe they are unsafe because of workload pressures.

Interview: Dr Chaand Nagpaul sets out how he plans to lead the profession

Dr Vautrey said last month that should practices vote in favour of action he was prepared to lead it. ‘We will do what practices want us to do’, he said. ‘That's what we're here to do. We're here to listen to what practices say, what GPs are saying, and then to take the actions within the law.’

He said the junior doctors’ action last year showed the union would take action with the ‘utmost vigour’ when members wanted it.

But GP leaders are wary of a repeat of the 2012 pensions dispute when, they believe, very few GPs participated in action following a vote in favour.

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