The web page also includes a specific section for GPs, outlining clearly their position as employers of staff members who may wish to take part in strike action.
The BMA was clear that GPs must attend work as normal on the day of action. However it suggested a number of ways doctors can still show their support for the strikes.
What can GPs do to show support:
- Wear campaign items, such as stickers, carrying a message of support – and encourage colleagues, family and friends to do the same.
- Consider donating to a local strike fund, where these exist.
- Help to raise awareness amongst all doctors, through meetings and social media.
- Write to local media to make sure they have the real facts and impacts.
- Attend a meeting in their lunch hour.
- Deliver refreshments to a picket line, provided they are prepared and delivered in your time.
The BMA will distribute campaign materials and tools directly to members closer to the day of action.
GPs were also encouraged to contact their LMC or BMA division or regional council to join forces with colleagues on the campaign.
As employers, GPs cannot stop staff members from taking part in industrial action, the BMA said.
‘The BMA is encouraging GPs to take a tolerant attitude to lawful industrial action by their staff on the day of action, bearing in mind that patient safety must be paramount.’
GPs should have time to prepare in the event of staff taking action, as the law states that employees must be issued notice in advance of a ballot for industrial action and of a decision to proceed.
The notice will identify the type of action contemplated and the types of employee likely to be involved, the BMA said.
Action by practice staff should not affect GMS or PMS contracts. However the BMA advised GPs to contact their primary care organisation (PCO) to clarify what is expected of them.
‘It is likely that GP practices will be expected to take reasonable action to mitigate any disruption,’ the BMA said.
GPs must not hire agency staff to cover any practice staff taking part in industrial action as it would be a criminal offence.
‘Strictly speaking, it would be the agency which commits the offence. However, there is risk that a doctor could also be prosecuted for aiding and abetting,’ the union warned.
Although the BMA is not currently balloting members on industrial action, the union explained what possible future action could involve.
GPs may be concerned that as the NHS is not their employer they may not be able to take industrial action over changes to their NHS pension.
However the BMA explained that is possible, that in certain circumstances, ‘for lawful industrial action to be taken where a dispute arises directly with the government’.
The BMA said industrial action includes a strike (where ‘workers’ refuse to work) and action short of a strike. The latter includes (though this is not an exhaustive list):
- Refusal to perform administrative or other duties.
- An overtime ban.
- Work to contract.
- Unauthorised sickness – or other – absence.
- Withdrawal of goodwill.
- A ‘go slow’.
- A boycott of management meetings.