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Practice managers urged to sign up to BMA roadshows to discuss collective action

by Rima Evans
20 June 2024

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Practice managers and other GP team members are being encouraged to attend BMA roadshow events being held across England to hear more details about the GP industrial action being planned.

The free events, featuring speakers from GP Committee England (GPCE), including its chair Dr Katie Bramall-Stainer, and hosted by LMC leaders, have already begun. The last one will be held on 24 July. Meetings will be a mixture of face-to-face and virtual sessions.

The roadshow has been organised as the BMA is in dispute with NHS England over the imposed 2024/25 GMS contract and has launched a campaign Protect your patients, protect your GP practices in response.

A non-statutory ballot was opened this week for GP BMA members, which asks if they are prepared to undertake different forms of collective action within their practice. Depending on the result, the BMA has planned for action to begin 1 August.

The union has said if the ballot, which closes on July 29,  is successful it will be inviting GPs to determine the actions they will be willing to take from a menu of options (see box below). None of them will place GP contractors in breach of their contract and is not a strike, it stressed.  

The union added that GPs ‘should enact these actions across the whole practice team working with their practice managers’.

GPCE is not recommending which action(s) practices take, it added. ‘It is for each practice to pick and choose as they see fit’.

It further explained: ‘It’s not a strike, it’s not a crash diet – this is more a lifestyle modification. It’s going to continue this way; it’s not just for the summer. It is until the next Government comes to the table and agrees a new contract that is safe for GP contractors / partners, their practices, and their patients’.

Meanwhile, the roadshow events offer an opportunity to hear face-to-face about the GP campaign, understand the non-statutory ballot, the timing, the choice, the options and the plan for action. It will also cover the risks associated with any action planned by practice.

In addition, the BMA will share its GP Practice Survival Toolkit and other Protect your Practice, Protect your Patients campaign materials to take back to surgeries.

‘You will also be able to hear about GPC England’s vision, strategy and aims for the months ahead leading up to and after the general election,’ the BMA has said.

The events are open to all GP partners, practice managers, salaried GPs, GP registrars and practice nurses. The full timetable and registration details can be found here.

Meanwhile, the GPCE has published advice and guidance to help practices consider how best to approach the 2024/25 GP contract changes in England.

Examples of industrial action GPs can take as suggested by the BMA

Practice actions

  • Limit daily patient contacts per clinician to the recommended safe maximum of 25. Divert patients to local urgent care settings once daily maximum capacity has been reached.
  • Stop engaging with the e-Referral Advice & Guidance pathway.
  • Serve notice on any voluntary services currently undertaken that plug local commissioning gaps.
  • See patients face to face as a default, unless there is a compelling reason not to do so.
  • Switch off Medicines Optimisation Software embedded by the local ICB for the purposes of system financial savings and/or rationing, rather than the clinical benefit of your patients.
  • Stop rationing referrals. Refer your patient for specialist care when it is clinically appropriate to do so, via eRS.
  • Stop rationing investigations. Refer your patient for specialist diagnostic investigations when it is clinically appropriate to do so.
  • Stop unsafe risk-holding to protect the system over the patient. Admit your patient to the local Emergency Department when it is clinically appropriate to do so via a written referral letter to the admitting team.

PCN actions

  • Practices should defer signing declarations of completion for ‘better digital telephony’ and ‘simpler online requests’ until further GPC England guidance.  So, practices that have not declared or received monies need not agree to share call volume metrics before October 2024.   And practices that have not declared or agreed to share data as part of the ‘online consultation systems in general practice’ publication, nor received monies, may continue to switch off their online triage tool during core hours, when they have reached their maximum capacity.

National action

  • Switch off  GPConnect functionality to permit the entry of coding into the GP clinical record by third-party providers. 
  • Withdraw permission for data sharing agreements that exclusively use data for secondary purposes (i.e. not direct care)
  • Freeze sign-up to any new data sharing agreements or local system data sharing platforms.

Source: BMA