The GPC’s document ‘Safeguarding Patient Services, Maintaining Cost-Effectiveness’ offers guidance on how practices can minimise the impact of the pay freeze by dropping unfunded services and refusing to take on secondary care work. It is not — and the GPC leadership is adamant on this point — in any way a protest or a blueprint for a work to rule.
In fact, GPC chairman Dr Hamish Meldrum went as far as to say that: ‘At the moment we do not believe there is an appetite for industrial action.’ Carefully chosen words, but there is clearly an appetite for some form of action among GPs.
A look at the letters we receive at GP and the results of our survey reveal a great deal of anger and frustration. GPs are fed up with being the whipping boys of DoH spin, tired of trying constantly and battling to meet new targets with what are in reality diminishing funds and infuriated that last year’s promises that the pay freeze would not be repeated have gone unfulfilled.
As a result, over three quarters of respondents to our survey rejected the GPC’s decision ‘to take no national action on the pay freeze’.
Furthermore, the vast majority believe that the GPC has failed to enough to counter the media attacks on GPs in recent months and about half are calling for Dr Meldrum’s resignation.
The results suggest a profession ready for action and losing faith with the leadership’s softly-softly approach. Whatever the GPC negotiators’ reasons for this stance, it has neither delivered a pay rise nor garnered the mass support of GPs.
The outcome of the meeting of LMC representatives later this month is now crucial in ensuring a robust response that GPs support, and preferably one that gains public support by showing how the government’s attitude is hitting patient services. Then GPs’ anger and frustration can be targeted on change to GMS, not a change of GP leadership.