Strikes by GPs could be on the table, medics suggest

Strikes by GPs could be on the table, leading medics have said, as a new poll revealed that the majority of family doctors are in favour of industrial action.

Dr David Wrigley, deputy chairman of the British Medical Association’s (BMA) England GP Committee, said family doctors in England are “frustrated, angry and upset”.

Meanwhile, he said, thousands of GPs cannot find work due to lack of flexibility in a scheme designed to boost GP team numbers – with one forced to take up work as an Uber driver.

The BMA has said the contract, which will see services given a 1.9% funding uplift for 2024/25, means many GP surgeries will struggle to stay financially viable.

It said it is considering “next steps” after a referendum of GPs, carried out by the union, found that 99% of 19,000 GPs rejected the new contract.

Dr Wrigley said the referendum is a “damning indictment on what the Government is offering us to look after our patients”.

He told LBC Radio: “This contract imposition has led to a reduction in funding and just not giving us the resources we need to look after our patients.

“This is why we’re now saying the Government needs to get back around the table, talk to us, free up this contract and allow us to look after our patients properly.”

Asked about the possibility of strikes, he said: “Like our junior doctor colleagues and consultants, we’d never want to go on strike… (but) it would be naive to think it’s not on the table.”

It comes after a poll of 391 family doctors across the UK, carried out by GP Online, found 72% would be in favour of industrial action.

Burnout, stress, high workload and patient safety concerns were cited as some of the main reasons for willingness to stage action.

GPs also raised concerns about pay and overall funding of the service.

Most of those polled (84%) said they would work “in line with BMA guidance on safe working limits”, while 60% said they backed “partial or complete list closures”.

Meanwhile, Dr Wrigley also highlighted the Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme – a £1.4 billion funding pot designed to boost GP practice staff including physician associates and pharmacists, but not GPs or practice nurses.

“We now have GP unemployment – colleagues who want to look after patients can’t find work because the Government just say ‘No, you can’t employ GPs’.”

He said “thousands” of GPs are unemployed, adding: “We’re talking to colleagues about this and they’re so frustrated.

“We’re even seeing some GPs having to do other work such as Uber driving or just leaving the profession, walking away, because there is no work available.”

He added: “I want to employ more GPs and more nurses but the Government won’t let us.

“We got around the table with them and said ‘Look, give us more flexibility, allow us to use the funds to employ more GPs, more practice nurses’. And they said no – it was a blank ‘No’, they would not allow us to do that.

“And when patients are struggling to get through on the phone at eight o’clock, we want more GPs. This is on the Government’s hands because they brought this about.

“GPs around the country are frustrated. They’re angry and they’re upset.”

“We have listened to feedback from general practice and the new contract will reduce unnecessary and burdensome bureaucracy. This will free up capacity so they can spend more valuable time with their patients, whilst also giving them greater autonomy to run local practices.”

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