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BMA issues risk notice to ICBs about GP industrial action

by Anna Colivicchi
22 April 2024

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The BMA has alerted all 42 ICBs of ‘significant risks’ which may arise from potential industrial action by GPs later this year.

The union’s England GP committee chair, Dr Katie Bramall-Stainer, has written to local commissioners asking for potential industrial action to be added to ICBs’ risk registers and for ‘mitigation scenario planning to take place’.

Last week, Dr Bramall-Stainer wrote to NHS England to state that they are ‘now in dispute’ based on this year’s imposed GP contract.

It comes after a decisive referendum result, which saw 99% of GPs vote down the Government’s imposed contract.

The letter to ICBs said: ‘Following this result, the BMA wishes to alert ICB colleagues to the significant risks to systems which may potentially ensue from any subsequent planned industrial action arising from this powerful outcome’.

It said that the months ahead may see GPs undertake ‘coordinated actions’ to ensure local commissioners, the Government and NHS England ‘understand how fundamentally important GP-led general practice is to the NHS’ as well as the consequences of ‘continued underinvestment’.

‘Whilst potential action is yet to be determined, GPC England wishes to give fair notice to ensure ICB colleagues prepare their systems for potential GP action during 2024/25, given the resulting substantive risks to all ICBs’ operational and joint forward plans,’ Dr Bramall-Stainer added.

She also said that the committee ‘sincerely hope’ that industrial action is ‘not necessary’ but that the possibility needs to be included in ICBs’ risk registers.

The letter also encouraged ICBs to contact their local LMCs to understand what mitigations may be possible and to discuss the full extent of local GP practice pressures.

It added: ‘The BMA’s GPC will continue to call for NHS England, the DHSC and Government to constructively engage with us to ensure a sustainable and safe model of care for NHS general practice for all 61 million patients registered across GP practices in England, now and for the future.’

Last month the BMA set out ‘an approximate timeline’ for GP industrial action, with announcements planned for October and ‘collective action’ to start in late November or early December.

The referendum of the profession carried out by the BMA was not a formal ballot, but ‘a temperature check’, with a formal ballot expected to talk place ‘by early September’.

Unlike consultants and junior doctors, GP partners are not employed by the NHS – but legal experts said last year that the profession is able to take strike action.

And Dr Bramall-Stainer revealed that any GP industrial action is unlikely to involve practices ‘shutting their doors’ to patients, with the GPCE considering options that would affect GP interface with other NHS services.

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