GP leaders in talks over access plan 'concessions'

Plans to name and shame GPs and impose targets on face-to-face appointments could be pared back by the government as it seeks to head off industrial action threatened by the BMA.

BMA House (Photo: Malcolm Case-Green)
BMA House (Photo: Malcolm Case-Green)

Last week the BMA’s GP committee voted unanimously to reject the government’s 'support package' and access plans for general practice - and requested formal approval for a ballot on industrial action in the form of a boycott of pay transparency rules and participation in the COVID medical exemption certification process.

However, the Guardian has reported that the BMA has secured ‘significant concessions’ from NHS England over conditions proposed in the GP access plans after private talks were held on 28 October.

A BMA spokesperson was quoted as saying that the concessions offered merited 'serious consideration' - and the association confirmed to GPonline that it understood reports were accurate that ditching plans for face-to-face targets and ‘league tables’ was on the table.

GP access plans

The reported offer of concessions over the access plans comes a day after GPonline reported on NHS Digital figures showing that total GP appointments have surged to their highest level since well before the pandemic - with face-to-face appointments now accounting for more than three in five patient contacts.

The BMA's GP committee is seeking approval to ballot members on industrial action and has called for a comprehensive new contract to replace the ‘outdated, underfunded, unlimited, unsafe workload’ of the current GP contract.

This week the BMA wrote to members advising practices to cease all non-GMS work and to apply to close practice lists in a bid to counteract the government's ‘bullying charter’ that fails to reduce workload pressures.

It also recommended that GP surgeries should 'not comply' with the proposals, which it says would involve them having to spend more time on bureaucratic processes - and called for the government to withdraw its plans.

Practice workloads

The BMA's GP committee met on 21 October for an emergency meeting to discuss the profession's response to the 'support package', which sparked fury among GPs after it threatened a fifth of practices with direct intervention over face-to-face appointments and imposed a string of new demands.

The union has previously warned that the viability of general practice this winter is in doubt because the vast majority of measures in the government's 'support package' offer no new help to the profession. Its analysis found that 19 of the 29 measures fail to support at all, or simply re-state existing policy.

Almost 3,500 GPs took part in the snap BMA poll, which found that 93% of GPs rejected the measures set out by the government and NHS England to improve access to general practice and support teams.

A separate BMA survey of more than 6,000 GPs earlier in the month found that more than half (54%) would consider leaving the NHS if the government did not provide them with the support they needed. A further 66% said that they would reduce their current hours.

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