GPs to be balloted on industrial action over Javid’s ‘name and shame’ reforms

From November, GPs will have to publicise their NHS earnings of more than £150k per year

Lamiat Sabin
Friday 22 October 2021 01:53
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<p>The GPs’ union says it has been ‘left with no alternative’ but to ballot its members </p>

The GPs’ union says it has been ‘left with no alternative’ but to ballot its members

GPs are set to be balloted on industrial action over controversial reforms proposed by health secretary Sajid Javid.

The “outraged” doctors in England have voted unanimously to reject the government’s plans at a British Medical Association (BMA) meeting.

The government wants to see GP surgeries ranked in league tables to “name and shame” those that do not carry out enough face-to-face appointments with their patients.

From early November, GPs will have to have their names and wages published if they earn an NHS salary of more than £150,000.

The BMA says that forcing GPs to publish their earnings “provides no benefit to patients or their care, yet will potentially increase acts of aggression towards GPs, will damage morale amongst the profession, and only worsen practices’ ability to recruit and retain GPs”.

GP surgeries will not be eligible for new funding if they fail to provide an “appropriate” number of in-person consultations. Patients will also be asked to rate their GPs via text message.

Mr Javid has insisted that his plans would improve patients’ access to primary care – but the union representing the GPs says it has been “left with no alternative” but to ballot over whether to take industrial action.

At the BMA GPs committee meeting on Thursday, 53 out of 57 members voted in favour of calling on all local medical committees in England to “disengage from any participation with the implementation of that plan”.

It also pledges its “full support to protect and defend any constituent GPs who refuse to engage or comply with the unreasonable contractual impositions” – which was backed by 54 out of 57 members.

The union has advised the doctors against complying with the “very worst aspects” of Mr Javid’s plans, that they have said would also see some GPs forced to oversee the extra duties required by the Covid vaccination exemption scheme.

The BMA insisted that services including the Covid vaccination programme and annual flu jab plan will not be affected by any industrial action that could be taken.

Dr Richard Vautrey, the chairman of the BMA GP Committee, said: “GPs have been left with no alternative but to take this action.

“All efforts to persuade the government to introduce a workable plan, that will bring immediate and longer-term improvement for doctors and their patients, have so far come to nought.

“The government has completely ignored our requests for a reduction in bureaucracy to allow us to focus more on patient care, and we are therefore encouraging doctors to withdraw from this bureaucracy themselves.

“The ultimate outcome should be to end the current crisis in general practice, and to properly support practices to manage their workload pressure.

“[This includes] safely getting through the backlog of care caused by the pandemic, delivering a safe service to patients, and allowing time to create an agreed long-term plan to make general practice sustainable for the future.”

Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Daisy Cooper urged Mr Javid to engage in talks with the union.

She said: “This shows the government’s deliberately provocative plans to name and shame GPs has backfired.

“Sajid Javid must now dial down the rhetoric and get round the table with doctors and patient groups to find a way forward.”

Mr Javid’s measures will also see GPs freed from some duties, as other NHS workers will instead be responsible for providing statements over whether a patient is medically-fit to work or drive.

NHS England said the new plans, that include a £250m winter access fund, will enable GP practices to improve availability and increase the number of face-to-face appointments and same-day care amid the Covid pandemic.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “GPs have done phenomenal work through the most difficult 18 months in living memory.

“We want patients to be able to see their GP promptly and in the way they choose. Our plan will improve access and drive up face-to-face appointments, it includes providing a further £250m to GPs in order to boost capacity.

“We are also cutting bureaucracy and GP teams will be given targeted support which will take pressure off staff and free up their time so it can be spent with patients.”

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