GPs will continue to push for industrial action ballot unless NHS England takes quick action

LMCs will feel 'cheated' out of a ballot for industrial action unless there is quick, concrete action from NHS England on proposals to relieve the crisis in general practice, a GPC member has warned.

Tower Hamlets LMC chairwoman and GPC member Dr Jackie Applebee, who proposed the motion calling on the GPC to organise a ballot for industrial action and mass resignations that was passed overwhelmingly by LMC representatives at May’s annual conference, told GPonline she would continue to push for a ballot if proposals announced yesterday are not implemented quickly. She said that LMCs could organise another special conference if this did not happen.

The GPC executive announced yesterday that a ballot would not go ahead after reaching agreement with NHS England to ‘take forward’ proposals from GPC’s Urgent Prescription for General Practice.

A three-month deadline agreed by LMCs conference for NHS leaders and the DH to accept the Urgent Prescription for General Practice demands passed last week.

In a letter to GPC chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul, NHS England’s head of commissioning Rosamond Roughton said she accepted the Urgent Prescription as a ‘good basis for further discussion’.

An ‘LMC Reference Group’ is being set up, made up of 12 senior LMC representatives, to discuss 15 proposals.

In an email to GPs, Dr Nagpaul said proposals for discussion would include workload limits, longer appointments, and more support and frontline resources for practices.

‘The acceptance of the [Urgent Prescription] has made it unnecessary to ballot GPs on their willingness to submit undated resignation letters or take industrial action’, Dr Nagpaul said. ‘However, in the past three months, GPC has carefully analysed the legal, practical and political considerations involved in taking such action. GPC will review progress on tangible improvements to GP pressures and consider any measures as necessary to enable GPs to provide safe, quality care for patients.’

GPC will undertake a survey consultation of the profession in September to inform further negotiations with NHS England.

Questions need to be answered

Dr Applebee, who represents Doctors in Unite/MPU on the GPC, said there were questions which needed answering following Monday’s announcement. ‘What does [it mean by] "taking forward proposals"? How long will it take until negotiations are finalised? When will we see anything concrete?’

‘We've been banging on the door of NHS England and DH for years about the parlous state of general practice’, said Dr Applebee. ‘Is this going to be another long wait for general practice to then get nothing? We haven't time to wait for proposals to be worked up unless they are going to work them up in weeks and then announce substantial amounts of money to pay for more doctors.’

‘My question is how bad does it have to get? I think it's bad enough and we should be balloting. Unless NHS England comes up with something very quickly, I think delegates at LMCs conference who voted overwhelmingly for the motion will quite rightly feel cheated by GPC and that democracy hasn't prevailed.’

Dr Applebee added: ‘We need a date by which these things are delivered. And it has to be within months. Otherwise we can't keep on talking to them. We need something now.’

LMCs could potentially organise another special conference, said Dr Applebee, a move she would support if there is no progress within six months.

‘Doctors in Unite will push on GPC for the ballot to be enacted if the proposals are not met very quickly.’

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