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Early election ‘does not change’ plans for collective action, says GPCE chair

by Anna Colivicchi
23 May 2024

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The announcement of an early general election to be held in July ‘does not change’ plans for GP collective action, the BMA GP committee chair for England (GPCE) has said.

Yesterday afternoon, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called a national election for 4 July, ending months of speculation as to when the election would happen.

Following the announcement, Dr Katie Bramall-Stainer said that ‘this does not change our plans for GP action’.

The BMA is currently planning for potential GP collective action to commence on 1 August, depending on the result of a ballot GP partners that will open on Monday 17 June and close on Monday 29 July.

Dr Bramall-Stainer previously told our sister publication Pulse that the union wants to make the ‘protection of your local GP’ the ‘doorstep conversation’ during the general election campaign.

In a post on X yesterday following the election annnouncement, she said: ‘Before you ask. This does not change our plans for GP action. It means messaging, tighter. Aims, clearer. Manifesto, sooner.’

Also after the Prime Minister’s speech, the BMA’s chair of council Professor Phil Banfield said that this election is a chance to ‘guarantee the future of our NHS for everyone’, and it couldn’t have come ‘at a more crucial time’.

He said: ‘Thousands upon thousands of doctors have joined colleagues across the NHS in taking unprecedented industrial action, after persistent failure to recognise and safeguard the medical workforce.

We cannot allow our health services to continue stumbling from crisis to crisis. All parties must make the health of the NHS their top priority. They must commit to valuing, retaining, and investing in the workforce, so we can give patients the care they need and deserve.’

Initially the BMA had set ‘an approximate timeline’ for GP action to coincide with a general election planned for the autumn.

However, last week GPCE members voted through a motion to proceed with a ‘non-statutory ballot’ in June, meaning any action taken by GP partners will ‘not involve contract breaches’.

The BMA suggested that instead GP partners could limit appointments to its own ‘safe working maximum’ of 25, or reject workload dump by stopping or reducing ‘work that they’re not formally contracted to do’.

As reported earlier this year, the GPCE is looking at options for collective action that would affect GP interface with other NHS services as well as workload, rather than practices ‘shutting their doors’.

The committee indicated that this is a ‘first phase’ of action, and that ‘further escalation’ beyond a non-statutory ballot can be stopped if the Government agrees to make ‘contractual improvements’ in 2024/25 and restore GP funding to 2018/19 levels.

It follows a referendum by the GP Committee England that found that 99% of GPs did not agree with the recent contract imposition, as well as the committee officially declaring a ‘dispute’ with NHS England.

A version of this article was first published on our sister title Pulse