GPs face tough choice as industrial action ballot closes after pay transparency rules kick in

GPs in England face a difficult choice on whether to comply with pay transparency rules that kick in from 12 November - two days before a ballot on possible industrial action is due to close.

Pay transparency rules (Photo: JH Lancy)

GP leaders have hit out at pay transparency rules that will require GPs and practice staff earning more than £150,000 in NHS income to make a declaration to NHS Digital so that their names and approximate earnings can be made public by the end of this year.

The BMA has said general practice has been 'singled out' for unfair treatment under the rules, because other NHS contractors and employees such as dentists or hospital consultants earning over the threshold will not be named.

The BMA is preparing to ballot the profession over possible industrial action, a process triggered by the profession's dismay over the access plan and support package unveiled last month by NHS England and the government. GP leaders have said the plans threaten to deepen problems faced by the profession rather than offering support at a time when workload is already at unprecedented levels.

NHS income

Refusal to comply with the pay transparency requirements is one of several forms of action under consideration by the BMA.

However, the ballot over industrial action is due to close on 14 November - two days after the deadline for GPs and other staff earning over the £150,000 threshold to declare their income.

The fact that the pay transparency deadline falls before the end of the ballot process leaves practices in a potentially difficult position.

The BMA has condemned the pay transparency requirement. In advice to the profession, it said: 'It provides no benefit to GPs or their patients, but will potentially increase acts of aggression and abuse toward GPs and practices. It will be damaging to morale among the profession and wholly counterproductive in terms of the ability to recruit and retain GPs.

GP workforce

'GPC England has already received reports of GPs reducing their hours to remain under the threshold. As GPCE did not agree to this amendment to the regulations, we consider these to have been imposed on the profession and in breach of the original agreement.'

A newsletter sent to GPs this week by Leeds LMC, where current BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey is an assistant medical secretary, warns: 'GPs need to consider carefully the implications before making a self declaration.'

The ballot will ask for GPs' views on 'not complying with the requirement from NHS England to submit GP earnings data as part of plans to name GPs and practice staff earning more than £150,000 in NHS income'.

However, the BMA guidance also warns that practices could be in breach of contract if they fail to declare income.

The guidance says: 'Not declaring earnings above the threshold would put a practice, not the individual (unless a single-handed GP) in breach of their contract. Where terms are entered into subcontracts and other agreements, those individuals would be in breach of those contracts.

'Any practice held in breach would be subject to the normal breach procedures outlined in paragraphs 70, 72 and 73 in schedule 3 in the GMS regulations.'

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