Rising workload and falling resources have left both the GPC and RCGP warning that general practice is in crisis.
Earlier this month, GP magazine revealed accountants’ fears that one in five GMS practices may become unsustainable as MPIG funding is redistributed between 2014 and 2021.
Dr Ron Singer, president of the Unite-affiliated Medical Practitioners’ Union, told GP that industrial action may now be ‘the only thing that will save general practice’.
Active talks are underway within the union over when to urge the BMA to ballot the profession, and the move could come as soon as this summer.
Many practices under threat
‘Things are getting so bad that it is not just a small group of practices under financial threat,’ said Dr Singer.
‘There are hundreds and hundreds in trouble. PMS reviews, removal of enhanced services, MPIG – this is now the biggest attack on any section of the NHS we have ever seen.’
Dr Singer said it was important that the response from the profession was proportionate
‘If the GPC is serious about defending general practice, it will have to ballot the profession,’ he added.
The way the government’s actions are currently destabilising general practice are either the result of a ‘misjudgment’ or a ‘deliberate strategy’, said Dr Singer.
Industrial action 'only hope'
‘If it’s deliberate, the only thing that will save general practice from the government is industrial action.’
Dr Singer added that industrial action could build on recent local protests over practices facing closure. ‘There are reactions in various parts of the country. The East London campaign is the most advanced and probably the biggest – we have plans now to reach out to other parts of London and beyond.’
GPC chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘Industrial action is a matter that the BMA would consider, not the GPC.’
He said the crisis in general practice would hit patients on a colossal scale.
‘Given that there are 340m visits a year to general practice, the impact of these cuts will be felt by nearly 1m patients a day who are experiencing longer waits, with GPs having less time to spend on their needs. ‘We are warning the government it needs to act to prevent collapse of general practice in some areas, which would have devastating consequences on the wider NHS.’