GPs complain of 'bias' in contract poll questions

Contract latest GPs question why the BMA poll does not offer the option of rejecting both DoH plans.

The wording of questions in the BMA's poll of opinion has been criticised as 'biased' by GPs.

Concern has been expressed that the result is now inevitable, after the GPC described Option A, the DoH offer, as the least worst earlier this month.

The poll asks whether the profession should choose the DoH's offer or the imposition.

Further questions gauge opinion on the government's method of negotiation and how damaging the changes will be for general practice. GPs have not been asked on what action the profession should take to show their dissatisfaction.

South Yorkshire GP Dr Sarah Bedford, whose Facebook group 'Protect NHS General Practice' now has 1,000 members, said that the consensus online was that the questions would encourage GPs to accept the offer.

'Having the chance to say you are opposed to both options afterwards gives everyone a mandate to vote "yes". It lets people who are worried feel that they are doing something,' said Dr Bedford. She said the question should have been 'accept or reject' not 'A or B'.

Dr Robert Morley, executive secretary of Birmingham LMC, where 300 GPs unanimously rejected the DoH offer earlier this month, said it 'might have been preferable' to allow GPs to completely reject the offer.

GPC chairman Dr Laurence Buckman stressed that it was a poll of opinion, not a ballot, and that the GPC was not obliged to do what the majority vote for.

'It would be strange to ignore people's opinions, but there is a difference between this and a ballot. I am asking for GPs opinion,' he said.

Dr Buckman called for a high turn-out and urged GPs not to abstain because this would effectively be a vote for the imposition.

Dr Bedford said that GPs did not know what they were voting on as important details of the extended hours directed enhanced service were still unresolved.

GPC representative Dr Prit Buttar, a Leicester GP, said that the GPC decided this was not a credible issue to go to 'all out war' with the government over.

The criticism of the poll was understandable, and the questions were made bland to overcome press hostility, he said.

'I would have liked seeing an option for GPs to vote for neither, but in the real world it had to be made clear that if you want to vote "no", there will be an imposition. It would be awful if there was a low turn-out and changes were imposed due to a minority.'

Dr Buckman confirmed that the country could feasibly split into separate arrangements should the results of the poll differ in each country.

The poll closes on 29 February.

Key Poll questions

1. Having read the accompanying information, and as you do have to choose between the two options presented here, which of them do you select?
a. Option A
b. Option B

2. Which of the following best describes how you feel about the option you have selected?
a. I am opposed to both options but have selected this because it was the less worse of the two
b. I have selected this because it has my full support

3. Do you believe the government's method of negotiation is acceptable or not?
a. Is acceptable
b. Not acceptable.

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