Exclusive: GP industrial action ballot on a knife-edge, poll suggests

A BMA ballot on potential industrial action by GPs could be on a knife-edge, according to an exclusive GPonline poll.

Asked how their practice was voting in the indicative ballot - which closes on Thursday - GPs were split 49% against action to 51% in favour.

However, if the poll results are replicated in the union’s ballot, there may not be an overall majority for either of the two forms of action on the table.

Balloting opened last month on proposals by LMCs for a co-ordinated list closure in response to what they say is the failure of NHS England’s GP Forward View to deliver necessary resources.

Patient list closure

Practices are being 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.

Of the 360 GPs polled by GPonline, 175 said they were not prepared to take part in either form of action proposed, while 185 were in favour of one or both forms of action.

Of those in favour of action 100 supported only a temporary list closure, 47 said they would support applying for a formal list closure, and 38 support either or both actions.

The GPC has said that if practices vote in favour of action in the indicative ballot it will ask the BMA council to review the results and consider a formal ballot.

New GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey told GPonline last month that he was prepared to lead the profession into industrial action if that is what practices want.

Industrial action

‘We will do what practices want us to do,' he said. ‘If we did get a strong message back from practices that this is what they wanted to do, then we would then go through the necessary processes, bound by trade union law, to ask practices formally about industrial action.’

But he warned that GP leaders did not want to find themselves in the same position as in the 2012 action over pensions when, he said, many GPs said they would take action  but failed to join it on the day. ‘If we are going to do something we need to be absolutely confident that practices are behind us,' he said.

One GP responding to the survey said: ‘Action is needed but not this particular action indeed. Let's not forget full-blown junior doctor strikes didn't have an impact - why would this?’

Another added: ‘BMA/GPC pathetic as ever; only thing that will work is all-out strike action by all NHS workers including GPs.’

Another GP said: ‘Doctors notoriously don't stand up for themselves. Many practices won't participate and unify in the decision as we wouldn't want to cause harm.’

One GP said: 'Finally the BMA is offering us the chance to show how much of a crisis we're in. I doubt it will have any impact though.’

Another added: ‘I do not agree with it. General practice is changing, we need to move forward and not keep trying to work the same way as though it is still 1940! Taking such action sounds like wanting protectionism.’

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