Dr Stewart Findlay, a GP in Bishop Auckland, County Durham, said: ‘To tell GPs it is acceptable to take a stand locally, but not to have a national plan of action is disappointing.
‘It’s as if the GPC is saying that it wants GPs to take the kind of action it is too weak to take itself. This just leaves GPs at the mercy of the PCTs, where they take all the risk and flak.’
Some GPC members are upset at the decision not to take stronger action. Sheffield GP and GPC member Dr Trefor Roscoe said he had voted in favour of a boycott on Choose and Book.
‘Another way to cause havoc was for everyone to hand back their NHS IT smartcards,’ he said. ‘The difficulty is that the GPC did not produce a lead.’
Dr Roscoe said he was disappointed at the call for practices to take action if they wanted to: ‘We have lost an opportunity to stand together as a profession. This was a chance to say “no more” after two zero pay rises and the pension cuts.’
Dr Anil Reddy, a locum in south London, said it was ‘not good enough’ for the GPC to expect practices to act alone: ‘This says to GPs that they should act as guinea pigs and fight for what they believe in on their own,’ he said.
‘This is typical of the attitude of the GPC. It is acting like a mouse when GPs want to see it act as a man, get angry and fight.’
Dr Jimmy Courtney, secretary of Eastern LMC in Northern Ireland, said: ‘Some more decisive guidance as to what GPs should not do might have been helpful. The government is playing hardball, and GPs should play that way too.’
But he said it was not clear that all GPs would have backed a call to boycott services.
Other LMC leaders agreed. Dr Paul Roblin, chief executive of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire LMCs, backed the GPC approach.
There is ‘no clear view from grass-roots GPs’ and trade union law makes industrial action ‘very difficult’, he said.