Majority of GPs back taking industrial action in the coming year, poll suggests

The majority of GPs support taking industrial action in the coming 12 months to push for more support and investment in general practice, according to a GPonline poll.

Ballot box
Most GPs support a ballot on industrial action (Photo: krisanapong detraphiphat/Getty Images)

The poll of 189 GP partners and salaried GPs found that 60% backed taking industrial action. Just 18% rejected the idea and the remaining 22% said they were unsure.

Last month the BMA GP committee voted to step up talks within the BMA over industrial action following the 4.5% pay award for salaried doctors. That decision came just weeks after the BMA annual representative meeting voted for the withdrawal of GP practices across England from PCNs by 2023, and for the GP committee in England to 'organise opposition to the imposition of the new contact including industrial action if necessary'.

GPonline's poll found that, in those supporting industrial action, 95% said that workload was a reason why they were prepared to take this step. A total of 93% said stress/burnout was a key reason behind them backing industrial action and 84% said pay and GP funding was a key issue.

Workload pressure

The survey also asked which forms of industrial action GPs would be prepared to take. Non-compliance with appraisals was supported by 64% of respondents and withdrawal from PCNs was backed by 62%. Three in five GPs (59%) supported practice list closures and 48% said they would be prepared to sign undated resignation letters.

However the poll also found that some GPs were nervous about the prospect of industrial action, fearing negative press coverage and the effects on the NHS.

One respondent said: ‘As a GP partner it is not possible to strike and any other form of industrial action punishes patients not the government.'

However another GP responding to the survey said, ‘It is unprecedented times where doctors who morally and ethically historically have never gone ahead with industrial action. However we are living in unprecedented times and general practice as a profession is clearly at risk through the volume of workload and burnout and lack of funding. It is brewing the perfect storm.’

A GP partner said: 'I fully support it and think it's long overdue. We are independent contractors and we need to fight for our profession otherwise the situation will only get worse. The government need us so we must be prepared to stand our ground.'

Another GP added: 'I still see this as a last resort, but as the role is becoming unsustainable I would definitely consider action.'

Industrial action

GPonline's survey comes as the government faces an autumn of discontent in the health service. Last week junior doctors said they would ballot for industrial action if the government does not commit to pay restoration by the end of September. The Royal College of Nursing and Royal College of Midwives have both announced plans to ballot their members on industrial action.

Last month BMA chair Professor Philip Banfield warned that action is 'inevitable' given long-term erosion of pay and a growing NHS crisis. He warned: 'The different groups of doctors we represent will now consider their next steps but it is clear that we are on a collision course with the government, the consequences of which will be the responsibility of ministers alone.'

More than half of GP practices said they were prepared to pull out PCNs in protest over a lack of government support for the profession, according to an indicative ballot by the BMA in November 2021.

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