Exclusive: Thousands of GP partners ready for mass resignation this summer, poll suggests

Three out of five GP partners in England are ready to resign en masse if the BMA cannot secure an emergency funding package for general practice in the next six months, a GPonline survey suggests.

A walk-out on this scale could see thousands of GPs across England quit - potentially as early as this summer - risking the closure of thousands of GP practices serving millions of NHS patients.

At an emergency BMA conference on the GP crisis on 30 January, union leaders agreed to 'canvass GPs on their willingness to submit undated resignations' unless a rescue package could be secured from the government within six months.

In the first indication of GPs' readiness to take part in potential mass resignation since the special LMCs conference, a GPonline poll reveals that 61% of GP partners would be prepared to hand in undated resignations to give the BMA more leverage in negotiations.

GP resignation threat

Of more than 300 GP partners in England who took part in the survey, just 14% said they were not prepared to sign undated resignations, while a further 25% were undecided.

The findings come as BMA leaders confirmed that thousands of junior doctors, including many GP trainees, had joined picket lines across England today in the second wave of strike action over an ongoing contract dispute.

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said it was time for the government to take the crisis facing general practice seriously.

'It just shows the desperate situation we have got into that GPs are prepared to take this major step that would impact on their livelihood and their families,' he told GPonline. 'The current situation is unacceptable and the government has to take this seriously.'

Junior doctor strikes

The government has a six-month window in which to make changes that will restore GPs' and patients' confidence that general practice will have a sustainable future, Dr Vautrey added.

A major announcement on GP funding is expected within weeks from NHS England. NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens suggested last month that a deal was close on the 2016/17 GP contract, as part of a 'substantial and wide-ranging' package of funding and support for GPs and primary care.

Dr Vautrey said: 'They will be judged by whatever is in the package as a whole. They need to be absolutely open and honest, rather than spin percentages when people can see through that. They need to give a real sense they are shifting the balance of funding to general practice, to enable GPs to hire more staff to ease workload and give young doctors the confidence to commit to general practice in the future.'

Talks on the 2016/17 GP contract are ongoing, the GPC deputy chairman confirmed. 'We hope to have something finalised very soon, but we are clear this is not going to solve the GP crisis. It is far wider than issues relating to the contract - there is a much bigger piece of the jigsaw to be filled in. NHS England and the Treasury need to step up.'

A DH spokeswoman said: 'We know general practice is under a number of pressures and that is why we are delivering 5,000 more doctors in general practice and investing £1bn in general practice facilities and technology. Soon the health secretary will announce further support for GPs, with measures to reduce the burden of bureaucracy and an increase in funding for general practice.'

GPonline reported in December that primary care funding is set to rise by at least 4% a year between now and 2020. But GP leaders have said the rise is not enough and will fail to restore the 11% share of NHS funding that general practice received around a decade ago.

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