GPs head for industrial action ballot as BMA backs 'support package' boycott

The BMA's GP committee is preparing to ballot the profession on industrial action after voting unanimously to reject the 'support package' and access plans for general practice published last week.

BMA House (Photo: Malcolm Case-Green)

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.

GP leaders at the meeting voted unanimously to reject the package of measures, warning they fail to address the problems facing the profession and urging practices and LMCs not to engage with their implementation. The motion passed by GP committee members also condemned the 'deliberate, relentless denigration of GPs by government, NHS England and certain quarters of the media'.

The GP committee will now seek formal approval from the BMA council 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.

Industrial action

The controversial pay transparency rules mean GPs and other practice staff earning more than £150,000 will be publicly named from later this year - and have outraged doctors' leaders who say GPs have been 'singled out' for unfair treatment and could face a fresh wave of abuse under the plans.

The committee has also demanded negotiations 'to replace the outdated, underfunded, unlimited, unsafe workload of the current GP contract', and backed a motion calling on LMCs to 'disengage' with implementation of the access plans, for practices to pause additional roles reimbursement scheme work and to disengage from the demands of the PCN DES.

The motion also backed LMCs to collect from practices 'undated resignations' from the PCN DES, that could be handed in if 'submissions by a critical mass of more than 50% of eligible practices is received'.

BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: 'GPs have been left with no alternative but to take this action. All efforts to persuade the government to introduce a workable plan that will bring immediate and longer-term improvement for doctors and their patients, have so far come to nought.

GP demands ignored

'The government has completely ignored our requests for a reduction in bureaucracy to allow us to focus more on patient care, and we are therefore encouraging doctors to withdraw from this bureaucracy themselves.

'The ultimate outcome should be to end the current crisis in general practice, to properly support practices to to manage their workload pressure, including safely getting through the backlog of care caused by the pandemic and deliver a safe service to patients, allowing time to create an agreed long-term plan to make general practice sustainable for the future.'

A DHSC spokesperson said: 'Patients should be able to see their GP promptly and in the way they choose. Our plan will improve access and drive up face-to-face appointments - it includes providing a further £250m to GPs in order to boost capacity.

'We are also cutting bureaucracy and GP teams will be given targeted support which will take pressure off staff and free up their time so it can be spent with patients.'

The BMA stressed that key services such as vaccination programmes and core services would not be affected by the plans, and condemned 'the government’s target based and tick box approach to providing services'.

The motion debated and passed by the BMA's GP committee in full:

That this committee is outraged by the deliberate, relentless denigration of GPs by government, NHSE/I and certain quarters of the media, and: 

i) rejects the plan published by NHSEI on 14th October 2021 and calls on all LMCs in England to disengage from any participation with the implementation of that plan

ii) calls on all practices in England to pause all ARRS recruitment and to disengage from the demands of the PCN DES

iii) promises its full support to protect and defend any constituent GPs who refuse to engage or comply with the unreasonable contractual impositions by NHSEI of “Pay Transparency” and “Covid Medical Exemption Certification”

iv) calls on all practices in England to submit undated resignations from the PCN DES to be held by their LMCs, only to be issued on the condition that submissions by a critical mass of more than 50% of eligible practices is received

v) instructs the GPC Executive to negotiate a comprehensive new contract to replace the outdated, underfunded, unlimited, unsafe workload of the current GP contract.

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