No response from NHS England one month on from BMA no confidence vote

NHS England has yet to provide a formal response almost a month after the BMA GP committee delivered a vote of no confidence in health service leaders and suspended formal meetings with officials.

NHS England: vote of no confidence
NHS England: vote of no confidence

On 20 May the BMA GP committee for England voted to pause all formal meetings with NHS England and demanded an explanation over a ‘tone deaf' letter that told GPs to offer face-to-face appointments for all patients.

The BMA said at the time that the vote of no confidence was a 'wake up call' for NHS England's leaders - and insisted that it was up to them to ‘fix a broken system’ that was failing patients and doctors. It demanded sufficient steps to restore confidence.

However, the BMA has confirmed that NHS England is yet to issue a formal response to the vote by its GP committee. Formal meetings between the GP committee and NHS England continue to be suspended - at a time when are GPs calling on NHS England to provide solutions to the workload crisis facing the profession.

NHS leadership

Under the terms of the motion passed by GP leaders, the GP committee will only resume talks if it agrees in a follow-up vote that 'sufficient steps have been taken to restore the committee’s confidence in the executive directors of NHS England, to justify the resumption of such meetings'.

However, with the next GPC England meeting scheduled for mid-July little progress towards such a vote to agree that confidence has been restored appears to have been made.

A BMA spokeperson said: ‘The motion passed by the committee speaks for itself. While the chair of GPC England, the chair of the sessional GPs committee and the chair of BMA council met with the health and social care secretary shortly after the vote, NHS England is yet to provide a formal response to the motion and formal meetings between the GPC executive team and NHS England are still on pause.

‘We continue to explore how GPC England might engage with NHS England going forward and the BMA will update members directly in due course.’

Face-to-face appointments

The motion carried by GP leaders last month called for ‘senior explanation and public action’ from the DHSC in view of its ‘unacceptable decision’ to publish a letter on 13 May insiting that GPs offered in-person appointments to all patients who requested them.

The BMA later met with health and social care secretary Matt Hancock to demand an end to 'micromanagement' of general practice and to raise concerns over extreme workload pressure on the profession.

A week before the vote of no confidence grassroots GP organisation GP Survival launched a petition calling for the resignation of the NHS England medical director of primary care, who had signed the controversial letter sent to practices.

Analysis of RCGP data by GPonline revealed recently that GPs are under immense pressure, delivering 8% more appointments in weeks 16-20 of 2021 compared with the same period in 2019. GP clinical administrative workload was also 34% higher in weeks 16-20 of 2021 compared with the same five-week period in 2019.

GP workload

More than a third of GPs overall planned to quit within five years even before the damaging impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, a survey showed. GPs have also reported to GPonline that they are facing a 'tsunami of work' during the pandemic.

NHS England has been approached for comment.

Read the motion passed by the BMA GP committee in full:

GPC England is outraged by NHS England and NHS Improvement's lack of understanding of the pressures facing general practice and:

i) Calls for formal BMA action by escalating concerns about NHS England’s apparent lack of knowledge of the applicable contracts and regulations relating to the delivery of general practice services

ii) Seeks both senior explanation and public action from the Department of Health and Social Care in view of the unacceptable decision to publish letter BO497 on 13 May 2021

iii) Has no confidence in the executive directors of NHS England

iv) Calls upon the chair of BMA UK Council to support the chair of GPC England in demanding an urgent meeting with the secretary of state for health and social care, to discuss the spiralling crisis in general practice.

v) Calls for GPC England’s Executive to immediately cease all formal meetings with NHS England until a motion is brought back to GPC England by the Executive, requesting a vote on their recommendation that sufficient steps have been taken to restore the Committee’s confidence in the Executive Directors of NHS England, to justify the resumption of such meetings.

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