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BMA: Full GP closure would be ‘challenging’ but is ‘on the cards’

BMA: Full GP closure would be ‘challenging’ but is ‘on the cards’
By Anna Colivicchi
23 March 2023

GP practices could close for a day as part of potential industrial action plans drawn up in response to NHS England’s imposition of the GP contract earlier this month, the BMA has said.

Fully closing surgeries for a day ‘would be challenging’ but is ‘on the cards’ as part of industrial action plans, the BMA’s GP Committee said during a webinar yesterday (22 March).

The union is considering next steps after NHS England’s contract imposition earlier this month and the GP Committee for England warned that GPs stand ‘ready to act’ if ‘positive changes’ are not seen.

GPCE officials including acting chair Dr Kieran Sharrock and deputy chair Dr David Wrigley updated GPs on the potential options for industrial action, which include:

  • Full practice closures for a day
  • Closure of patient lists
  • Establishing lengthy GP consultation patient waiting lists (akin to secondary care)
  • Severe capping of daily consultations per GPs to safe / sustainable levels
  • Submitting undated contract resignations

The BMA said that GPs will have to ‘work together in unison to secure positive change and safer care’ and that balloting and subsequent action are ‘tools to bring about collective success.’

They stressed timing was important for ‘maximum impact’ and that action was being considered in relation to both this year’s and next year’s contracts.

The GPC is expected to meet ‘around Easter’, as revealed by Pulse, for an emergency meeting to make decisions about industrial or collective action.

Dr Wrigley said that ‘there is risk involved’ in taking any action that breaches contract but that ‘general practice could disappear from many parts of the country if we don’t take action.’

He said: ‘General practice used to be the jewel in the crown of the NHS – the key is that if we act together we have so much ability to make change.

‘We know what contract we need and it might be that we need to take some action to get there. I want to say that there are risks involved – anything that could breach the contract can put colleagues at risk and it’s important that we prepare the ground.’

He said that the BMA wants to ‘stop the haemorrhage of GPs’ and that whatever form industrial action will take it will have ‘the maximum impact for the maximum gain.’

He added: ‘Many people say that if we take action, it needs to be powerful but that it could impact patients. But if we don’t take action now, general practice could disappear from many parts of the country.’

He said that GPs ‘needs the Government to give us the resources we need’ to care for patients and that the GPCE will meet next month to decide on the most suitable options for industrial action.

Dr Sharrock said that collectively working together following any ballot will be very powerful and that significant action gets noticed by politicians, the media and patients.

He said that taking action ‘will take courage’ and ‘won’t be easy’ but that the profession and patients deserve better.

He said: ‘We need to be our patients’ advocates – we don’t want to take strike action, we want to be caring for patients.

‘There’s always going to be risks to it and we will provide guidance, the more we act together the more the risks will be mitigated.

‘People joining the BMA is a good sign that doctors want to take action.’

The BMA also confirmed that it set up an industrial action ‘working group’, as previously revealed by Pulse, which regularly meets and has been looking at:

  • Groundwork needed to get the profession ‘in the right mindset’
  • Desired outcomes from successful action by the profession
  • Actions to put to the profession in a future ballot
  • Organising alongside members, practices and LMCs
  • Tactically opportune moments to ballot / survey / poll
  • What success will look like following any action taken

Earlier this week, the union gave the Government a list of changes that must be made – ‘at a minimum’ – to the imposed 2023/24 contract to avoid a threat of industrial action by GPs.

A version of this story first appeared on our sister title, Pulse.

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