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NHS crisis: After junior doctors, now GPs vote for ballot on taking strike action

Family doctors warn Government’s ‘rescue package’ won't be enough to prevent 'demise' of the profession

Charlie Cooper
Whitehall Correspondent
Friday 20 May 2016 18:05 BST
The Government's 'rescue package' aims to recruit 5,000 more GPs
The Government's 'rescue package' aims to recruit 5,000 more GPs (PA)

GPs have voted overwhelmingly to be balloted on their willingness to take strike action, as family doctors warned that the Government’s ‘rescue package’ for family doctors would not be enough to prevent the “demise” of the profession.

The vote, at a conference of the British Medical Association’s Local Medical Committees, holds out the prospect of another bitter industrial dispute between medics and the Government, just days after a settlement was reached with junior doctors.

Any such move would not be an official strike ballot, but rather a canvassing of opinion among GPs about their willingness to strike. The wording of the motion calls on the Government to improve their offer to GPs within three months, or face such a vote.

The dispute centres on a ‘rescue package’ for GPs announced in April, which allocated an extra £2.4bn a year of NHS spending to general practice, with the aim of recruiting 5,000 more GPs and other extra staff.

However, there is concern that, after what the BMA describes as a decade of underfunding, the package will not be enough to reduce heavy workloads and save many practices from closing.

A motion put forward at LMC conference – a meeting of local GP leaders – and backed overwhelmingly, stated that the rescue package, known as the General Practice Forward View, was not an adequate response. It also called on the BMA to ballot members on their willingness sign undated resignation letters.

Dr Jackie Applebee, from Tower Hamlets LMC, who proposed the motion, said: “’Are we going to accept the demise of general practice? If not now, when? Will there be a general practice to defend if we wait much longer?

“The Government can always find money if the will is there, but is the will there? We have to remember that this is a Government determined to drive through austerity.”

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the BMA’s GP committee, said the vote reflected “deep anger” among GPs. He said underfunding had led to patients being put at risk because of unsafe workload pressures and a growing recruitment and retention crisis leaving too few GPs to meet growing patients' needs.

"The BMA has already secured important commitments from NHS England in their GP Forward View but will continue to push hard for tangible improvements that really turns around the current crisis,” he said.

The Department of Health declined to comment, indicating that the vote was a matter for NHS England.

A spokesman for NHS England said: “The widely supported new General Practice Forward View, backed by a ground-breaking £2.4bn action plan, will help tackle longstanding pressures in primary care, but of course we know this a step on the journey, not the final destination.

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