GPs in England to be balloted over ‘collective action’

Family doctors in England will be asked whether they will take part in “collective action” amid a row over the new contract for GP services in England.

This could mean GPs limit the number of patients they will see each day to 25.

It could also potentially see GPs stop performing work they are not formally contracted to do – including the completion of fit notes, prescriptions or investigations which should have taken place in the hospital setting, or asking hospitals to communicate with patients about re-booking hospital appointments.

The British Medical Association (BMA) said the new GP service contract, which will see services given a 1.9% funding increase for 2024/25, means many surgeries will struggle to stay financially viable.

GPs launched a formal dispute over the issue in April after a referendum carried out by the union found that 99% of 19,000 GPs rejected the new contract.

Now GPs are to be balloted to see whether they are willing to take part in collective action.

The ballot will run from June 17 to July 29, and the BMA said that if there is a majority vote, then doctors will be able to take action “immediately”.

Dr Katie Bramall-Stainer, chair of England GP Committee at the BMA, said: “We’ve been warning the Government for some time now that without drastic improvements to the contract, GPs will be forced to consider taking action.

“GP services have been eroded to the tune of hundreds of millions of pounds in recent years, with over a thousand practices lost across England.

“For many surgeries the numbers don’t add up and with rising running costs it is impossible to stay open at all.

“Today should act as a wake-up call to Government that GPs are ready to stand and fight to protect their practices and patients.

“Ministers can stop any further escalation, but until they sit down and take our concerns seriously, we have no choice but to urge members to vote ‘yes’ in this ballot and take action to save general practice.”

The BMA said it “will not direct GPs to breach their contracts in this initial phase” if members vote for action.

The news comes after it emerged that junior doctors in England have entered “mediated talks” with the Government in a bid to end their long-running dispute with the Government over pay.

Meanwhile, thousands of specialist, associate specialist, and specialty (SAS) doctors in England are set to vote on an improved pay offer from ministers.

Consultants across England have now resolved their dispute with ministers after accepting a new pay offer.

The Department of Health and Social Care has been approached for comment.

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