GPs could blow prescribing budgets 'out of the sky' in pensions protest

GPs could 'blow budgets out of the sky' by prescribing branded not generic drugs to register their protest against pension cuts, according to the Family Doctor Association (FDA) chairman.

Dr Swinyard: ‘We could blow budgets out of the sky within a month by prescribing much more expensive drugs, and using brand names.'
Dr Swinyard: ‘We could blow budgets out of the sky within a month by prescribing much more expensive drugs, and using brand names.'

The BMA has entered into discussions with other health unions over proposed pension reforms, not ruling out the possibility of industrial action.

Although industrial action may be a long way off, according to the BMA, GPs are legally allowed to strike.

Legally GPs, like all other workers in the UK, are entitled to take strike (withholding labour) or industrial action (which encompasses going slow, work-to-rule and overtime bans).

So what form could industrial action take?

FDA chairman Dr Peter Swinyard said there were a number of things that GPs could do to ‘cause the government discomfort’ without seriously affecting patient care. However, Dr Swinyard was careful to say that the suggestions were not recommendations and that all decisions on industrial action would be taken by the BMA. Some suggestions might be a breach of GPC guidance or even a breach of contract, Dr Swinyard warned.

One possible form of industrial action could be to prescribe more expensive brand name drugs to patients, Dr Swinyard said.

‘We could blow budgets out of the sky within a month by prescribing much more expensive drugs, and using brand names,’ Dr Swinyard said.

Dr Swinyard said that this was a preferred option because it would not affect patient care, ‘patients would be just as well but it would cause a great deal of inconvenience for the government'.

Another option would be not signing death certificates Dr Swinyard said.

‘This is not just an issue that affects GP, it affects all doctors and if we all agree not to sign death certificates there will be no burials or cremations,’ Dr Swinyard said.

‘Refusing to do sick notes for government employees would be another option,’ Dr Swinyard said, ‘or we could sign off all government employees for three months,’ he added.

GPs could become ‘risk averse’ and refer a more patients for a second opinion.

Or GPs could withdraw from running clinical commissioning groups. ‘They could simply say 'sorry, we’re not doing that',' Dr Swinyard said.

In 1966 doctors took strike action and collected undated resignation letters from the entire profession. This tactic could work again, Dr Swinyard said. 

Despite mounting anger over pension reforms, Dr Swinyard said that the priority for GPs would be to ensure that patient care was not harmed.

‘The BMA would not ask us to go down this route unless it was absolutely necessary,’ Dr Swinyard said.

Dr Swinyard said that he would be ‘very very sad’ to have to resort to industrial action.

However he was positive that if doctors did have to resort to industrial action, the government would listen.

So far the government has listened to many of the profession’s concerns and has built a good relationship with doctors, Dr Swinyard said.

‘I think the government is more reasonable that it likes to think it is,’ he added.

GP Online recommends

Visit our Pensions Toolkit

Read more

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins


Already registered?

Sign in

Follow Us:

Just published

Whitehall street sign

NHS officials doubled in two years as GP workforce dropped

Staff employed by NHS England and the DHSC doubled in two years from the start of...

Child coughing

NICE traffic light tool that helps GPs spot seriously ill under-5s 'unreliable'

NICE's 'traffic light' system - intended to help GPs identify risk of serious illness...

Pregnant woman receives COVID-19 vaccine

COVID-19 vaccine uptake in pregnant women rising but stark inequality remains

More than half of pregnant women are now double vaccinated against COVID-19 as uptake...

Vaccination tracker

UK COVID-19 vaccination programme tracker

GPs across the UK have led the largest-ever NHS vaccination programme in response...

GMC sign

Overseas-graduate GPs fare worse in medical tribunals due to lack of legal help

UK GPs who graduated overseas face worse outcomes in GMC cases because they are far...

Woman using HRT patch

Practical advice for GPs on prescribing HRT

GP menopause specialists Dr Louise Newson and Dr Olivia Jones provides an overview...