GPs could withdraw from PCNs by 2023 under plan set for BMA debate

The BMA could push for GP practices to withdraw en masse from PCNs by 2023 following a debate scheduled for its annual conference later this month.

BMA House entrance

Doctors' leaders at the 2022 BMA annual representative meeting (ARM) in Brighton will vote on whether to call on the association and its GP committee for England to 'organise the withdrawal of GP practices from PCNs by 2023'.

They will also debate calls for billions of pounds in funding for primary care channelled through the networks to move instead into core general practice funding - and will debate demands for stronger action to oppose the imposition of the 2022/23 GP contract 'including industrial action if necessary'.

Delegates at the ARM will also vote on a motion warning that delivery of healthcare in general practice is undermined by inadequate premises - and will hear calls for talks with governments in all four UK nations to demand 'much needed new funding to develop GP estates'.

NHS reform

The vote on PCNs will come just days before 42 integrated care systems (ICSs) take effect across England from July as part of major NHS reforms. PCNs are a key element of the reshaped NHS, and the ARM vote could place the BMA in opposition to those structures at a difficult time for health service leaders and the government.

The ARM motion comes against a backdrop of growing concern over PCNs and their impact on general practice.

The BMA's GP committee for England voted earlier this month to warn that PCNs posed an 'existential threat' to the independent contractor model of general practice.

Polling by GPonline published at the end of May found that more than three quarters of GPs believed PCNs had added to practice workload - and that less than half of GPs felt PCN membership had benefited general practice in their area.

Withdrawal from PCNs

An indicative ballot by the BMA last year found that more than half of GP practices were prepared to pull out of PCNs - and the association has faced criticism for failing to take action to follow that up, with some GPs calling for a formal ballot on potential industrial action.

Anger over PCNs and their impact on general practice comes as practices face growing pressure, with growing demand for consultations and a workforce that remains in decline.

Doctors' leaders will also debate a motion at the conference that warns the BMA has 'failed to learn from the Romney report, with many members still unable to feel proud of their union'.

QC Daphne Romney delivered a report in 2019 that found evidence of sex discrimination, bullying, rudeness and harassment in the BMA. The report came after GPonline revealed details of women's experiences of sexism and harassment within the BMA's GP committee in April 2019.

Read the ARM motion on PCNs in full:

Motion by LONDON REGIONAL COUNCIL: That this meeting supports GPs fighting to defend the GMS contract and NHS independent contractor status. The long-term GPpatient relationship and the right for GPs to control their workload in a safe way, is essential for the future of general practice. We applaud the South Staffordshire motion passed at the 2021 LMC conference which called for GPCE to negotiate the end of the Primary Care Networks (PCNs) from 2023 as they ‘pose an existential threat to independent contractor status’ and this meeting:-
i) calls on GPCE and the BMA to organise the withdrawal of GP practices from the PCNs by 2023;
ii) calls for PCN funding to be moved into the core contract;
iii) instructs GPC England to act upon the GP ballot of 2021 and to organise opposition to the imposition of the new contact including industrial action if necessary.

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