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Industrial action will not see practices ‘shutting doors’, says BMA GP leader

by Anna Colivicchi
11 March 2024

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Potential GP industrial action being planned by the BMA is unlikely to involve practices ‘shutting their doors’ to patients, its GP Committee England (GPCE) has revealed.

Instead, GPCE seems to be mainly looking at options that would affect the GP ‘interface’ with other NHS services as well as workload, according to a list shared with delegates at a webinar about the new contract held last week.

In the session, GPC England chair Dr Katie Bramall-Stainer said GP ‘collective action’, which may take place in the autmun, is going to be ‘totally different’ from action taken by junior doctors or consultants.

The BMA is exploring possibilities that ‘would not put GPs against their patients’ and ‘would not lead to contractual action’, she said.

Although Dr Bramall-Stainer did not go into detail about what each option would look like, a slide shared with delegates listed action being considered as:

  • who/how we admit
  • who/how we refer via eRS
  • whether we engage with A&G 
  • whether we switch off data-sharing agreements 
  • serve notice on all shared care agreements – no capacity to deliver 
  • no proformas – just write a letter 
  • stop rationing and risk holding patient requests for referrals 
  • give a platinum level of service to the max 25 patients you see a day.

According to Dr Bramall-Stainer, the action will have a ‘public-facing narrative’, built on ‘trust’ to ‘repair the toxic damage’ to general practice’s reputation in the media and with the public.

‘It’s not going to be like anything we have seen from junior doctors and from consultants. We are totally different so we will take a totally different approach.’

‘The worst thing we can do is shut our doors and put patients against us,’ she said, ‘because we are not going to bring the majority of GPs with us, who are going to feel really nervous about what the consequences of that are going to be for patients out there, and where they are going to go.

‘We want to impact NHS England and the Government, not our patients.’  

The BMA has set out an approximate timeline’ for GP industrial action, with announcements planned for October and collective action aiming to coincide with campaigning for the next general election.

The GPCE is also currently holding a referendum on the GP contract changes, which runs until 27 March. Collective action will depends on the referendum outcome and on the GPCE requesting permission in July from BMA UK Council to approve options for prospective industrial action.

A version of this story was first published on our sister publication Pulse