Dr Jackie Applebee, Tower Hamlets LMC chair, has spoken out on the decision of the annual LMC conference to ballot for collective action over the ongoing GP crisis.
The motion was ultimately shelved by the General Practitioners Committee after NHS England accepted the BMA’s Urgent Prescription rescue plan as the basis for further talks.
But LMCs have consistently stated that the GP Forward View is insufficient to remould the profession and healthcare system, and have demanded a ballot on the subject.
Applebee was centrally involved in the proposal in response this, which is for a collective list closure.
And the eminent doctor believes that there is a strong possibility that the motion will be turned into action in 2017.
Over two-thirds of those attending the LMC conference in Edinburgh were in favour of the idea, indicating the huge strength of feeling on the matter.
“I just think, we can’t not do anything twice,” Applebee states. “We didn’t do it last year. The profession has waited. Everybody’s saying nothing’s changed.”
The notion of closing lists collectively is considered to be an action that GPs can undertake without breaching contractual terms.
Industrial action can often be complicated for GPs, given their independent contractor status, and there is still some debate on the potential legal consequences of this industrial action.
But Appleee strongly asserts that the action would not represent any breach of contract.
“We can do that. Especially if it’s on the grounds of patient safety, which is what it would be. There are protections. GPs should have confidence and recognise that if they don’t take action now, it could be too late.”
And the prominence LMC head suggests that some form of industrial action must be taken in due course in order to demonstrate that doctors are serious about existing working conditions.
“If they’re nervous about it, how much more are we going to take? What more has to happen before we will do something radical about it? Because, actually we are collapsing. There won’t be a general practice service to defend if they are not prepared to stand up and defend it now. I think people are prepared to do it”.
Applebee suggests that continuing to negotiate with the government will ultimately be futile, and stronger action is required in order to change the future direction of the health service and doctors’ careers and working conditions.
The doctor also noted that concessions have been won by the General Practitioners Committee, with the GP Forward View being amended in order to take into account professionals’ arguments on Care Quality Commission procedures and indemnity funding.
But these can be considered little more than crumbs of comfort according to Applebee, rather than a coherent solution that is required in order to save the service.
GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul has previously acknowledged that existing government plans to offer additional funding to general practice will still leave the profession with a massive deficit.
In this climate, it seems that some sort of collective action is inevitable.