GPs warn 30 November 'day of action' will increase workload

The TUC's 'day of action' on Wednesday 30 November is likely to increase GP workload, leading GPs have warned.

Dr Vautrey: ‘Patients whose hospital appointments have been cancelled will be coming to us'
Dr Vautrey: ‘Patients whose hospital appointments have been cancelled will be coming to us'

On Wednesday public sector unions will strike over proposed reforms to public sector pensions on the so-called 'day of action'.

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey warned that consequences of the strikes, such as demands for sick notes and reduced hospital services, were likely to increase GP workload.

PCTs were recently advised by NHS Employers that they may wish to request sick notes from staff who take the day off on the ‘day of action’.

Dr Vautrey said: ‘The biggest impact will be from public sector employees requiring sick notes. Those unnecessary consultations will have a knock-on effect (on GP workload).’

Sick notes
Dr John Hughes of The Association of LMCs across Greater Manchester described the sick note requirements as a ‘completely inappropriate use of a doctor's time. 

‘Some GP practices will already be under strain because of industrial action by staff. Adding an unnecessary administrative task to their workload is unacceptable and would undoubtedly make it harder for patients to get appointments,’ Dr Hughes said.  

'Some people may well be running a semi-emergency service due to the increase workload,' he added.

Dr Vautrey said that hospitals running bank holiday staff services would also have an effect on practices.

‘Patients whose hospital appointments have been cancelled will be coming to us,’ he said.

Impact of strikes
Dr Rob Barnett, Liverpool LMC secretary agreed. Speaking to the Liverpool Echo, he said: ‘We are worried ill people who need to see a doctor will have problems. Also because hospitals will operate a bank holiday service this may increase the amount of patients coming to us.’

Dr Barnett said that although he was concerned over the impact of schools closing would have on staff levels and the number of patients attending the practice, he said it was difficult to predict what would happen.

'Either families will have a day out at the surgery or they wont come at all,' he said.

Dr Hughes said that fracture clinics and orthopaedic clinics were likely to be closed due to physiotherapists striking, and GPs would not be able to run blood tests for the day due to a lack of hospital staff. 

The Medical Practitioners' Union (MPU) recently announced that despite balloting members under the Unite ballot, GPs would not be called out to strike due to legal complications.

However some practices may still make the decision to show their support for the strikes, MPU chairman Dr Ron Singer said.

The Limehouse Practice in Tower Hamlets, east London, plans to hold a one-hour protest on Wednesday morning, with GPs and staff gathered outside with placards and banners.

Deputy practice manager Khawar Majeed said that during the morning surgery GPs would be available for emergency appointments but non-emergency patients will not be able to book an appointment.

He said that patients had been able to book appointments for the day of action since Monday.

Lunch time protest
BMA members may also decide to use their lunch breaks to get involved and show their support for the strikes.

Dr Hughes said: 'I certainly know of a couple of GPs planning to use their lunch time to join the march through Manchester.'

It is possible that practice staff who are members of unions which have been balloted will decide to take part in industrial action.

However Dr Vautrey did not think the strikes would have a huge impact on practice staffing levels.

‘It’s unlikely to have a massive impact on our particular staff. Only a small number of practices are likely to be affected.’

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