The BMA’s GP Committee in England (GPCE) is preparing for industrial action as another contract imposition looks likely, our sister title Pulse has reported.
Last week, the Government put forward an initial offer for the 2024/25 GP contract of a 1.9% uplift. The current offer also includes a reduction in QOF indicators and a move to bring practice nurses into the Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme (ARRS).
The GPCE voted down the proposal, with committee members also instructing the executive team to go back to the negotiating table with the Government and NHS England to improve the offer.
But in a letter to Surrey and Sussex LMCs, GPCE deputy chair Dr Julius Parker said it ‘is clear this may not happen’, in which case the current contract offer would be imposed for the third year in a row.
He also advised GPs to prepare for industrial action by registering with the BMA, and said the union is considering discounted membership in preparation, while GPCE will ‘provide detailed guidance’ on how independent contractors can strike.
Dr Parker, who is also chief executive of Surrey and Sussex LMCs, told members that the GPCE’s demands were not ‘unreasonable’ and included an ask for ‘an inflation linked core contract increase’, as well as ringfencing within the contract for ‘dedicated purposes, such as GP supervisory tasks’.
However, he suggested that none of these asks were accepted by NHS England.
Dr Parker said the Government’s proposed changes to the contract ‘are unlikely to significantly increase’ GP workload, but this will depend on the actual wording of NHS guidance when the contract is published.
But he said that GPs need ‘significant investment’ which is ‘comparable with that seen elsewhere in the system’ if they are to deliver safe services.
He added: ‘In the medium term, general practice needs to see a fundamental shift in the balance of financial investment across the Primary and Secondary Care sectors to properly reflect the role and workload expected of it.
‘Whilst GPC England did not necessarily expect a substantial change in the more general financial balance in 2024/25, it did expect NHS England to realise and support the principle that general pPractice must receive a stabilising award in this coming financial year.
‘Without this, the risks are all too clear: practices cannot invest, reward their staff for their commitment, and meet current financial pressures, such as the planned minimum wage increase from April 2024.’
Whatever happens over the next month with negotiations, the GPC has committed to putting the Government’s offer to the profession in a referendum on 1 March.
‘Whilst GPC England have rejected the current offer, it is far more powerful to be able to convey the views of the profession as a whole,’ Dr Parker, who is also chief executive of Surrey and Sussex LMCs, told his members.
‘I am aware that BMA membership is not universally popular amongst GP colleagues. Nevertheless, if the profession is to move, during this year, towards industrial action, albeit reluctantly given the impact on patients, this can only be organised by our trade union.
‘LMCs are not trade unions and cannot legally organise a strike. To ensure the profession can use this route, and for each GP to vote, all GP colleagues need to join the BMA’.
A version of this story was first published on our sister title Pulse