The General Practitioners Committee has decided not to ballot members on the potential submitting of undated resignations or industrial action.
Instead, the authoritative organisation has claimed it has achieved hard-won concessions on workload from NHS England.
NHS England has apparently agreed to adopt several suggestions from the GPC’s ‘Urgent Prescription for General Practice’.
These include ensuring that doctors work within its safe limits, and the introduction of lengthier appointments.
The GPC states that it will be “surveying members in September asking grassroots GPs for their views on future negotiations with the Government”, as an alternative to a ballot.
Yet many members of the GPC have suggested that NHS England has failed to deliver what was demanded by the General Practitioners conference.
NHS England had been presented with the prospect of “accepting the Urgent Prescription within three months of this conference”, or face a ballot on mass resignation.
The BMA claims that several of the demands listed in the Urgent Prescription will form the ‘basis of negotiation’, including:
– Ensuring that GPs work within safe limits each day.
– Enabling GPs to have longer appointments to meet the needs of patients, and in particular those with complex and multiple problems.
– Ending inappropriate workload demands on GPs that could be done by other parts of the NHS.
– Empowering patients to better manage their own health when appropriate.
– Ending time consuming bureaucracy, such as chasing up hospital actions or re-referring patients, time that could instead be spent providing more appointments to patients.
– Provide GP practices with more frontline staff and facilities to meet record increase in the public’s demand for GP services, especially from an ageing population.
The letter from NHS England director of commissioning Rosamund Roughton, dated 16th August, asserts that the Urgent Prescription can play a part in forthcoming dialogue.
“NHS England accepts the BMA’s Urgent Prescription as a good basis for further discussion and work on supporting general practice pressures, also noting that some of the proposals need greater detail. We have continued to discuss the areas that are included in the Urgent Prescription but not in the General Practice Forward View.”
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, GPC chair, is pleased that an apparent two-way process has been opened between the healthcare authorities and the BMA.
“In response to the calls from the BMA, NHSE has accepted taking forward our proposals to alleviate the unsustainable pressures on practices. Crucially, NHS England has recognised that GPs need to work within manageable workload limits to ensure safe and quality patient care. The BMA will now be meeting NHS England to develop these proposals further, as well as putting pressure on NHSE to deliver on promises made in its General Practice Forward View plans, so that urgent support is delivered to frontline GP services.”
Nagpaul also emphasised that BMA internal meetings will take place in order to establish the position of the union, with the GPC also involved.
“The GPC will also be proceeding with a survey of the profession in September, to ensure that the profession’s priorities and views are properly taken on board when we continue our negotiations in the future’.
But Dr Dean Eggitt, medical secretary of Doncaster LMC, was critical of the position of NHS England, pointing out that a rescue package has been conspicuous by its absence.
“The conference said if you don’t have a solution, a rescue package agreed between NHS England and the Department of Health, we now need to ballot the profession. We haven’t got that, we’ve got an agreement that the Urgent Prescription is along the right sort of lines, and the GP Forward View is working towards delivering something, but that’s not what conference mandated is it? Conference mandated we either have a rescue package in place, or we go out to ballot the profession.”
The British Medical Association (BMA) has announced that junior doctors are to be balloted regarding strike action.
Industrial action from the registered trade union for doctors comes in the context of new government proposals related to the contracts of trainees.
The government intends to impose these new conditions starting from August, but the BMA had indicated its opposition to the proposals.
Reforms outlined by the government have been described by the BMA as “unsafe and unfair”.
The ballot will only be distributed among trainees in England, as Scottish and Welsh trainee doctors will not face changes to their existing contracts.
Speaking on the subject, Dr Johann Malawana, the recently appointed leader of the BMA junior doctors committee, described the decision as “a reflection of the anger felt by the thousands of junior doctors who have told us that the government’s position is not acceptable”.
Malawana suggested that the government had given insufficient consideration to whether the new contract system will provide sufficient patient safety.
There are also question marks regarding whether junior doctors are being fairly remunerated for their work, and on the impact over the functioning of the health service as a whole.
“The contract they want to impose will remove vital protections on safe working patterns, devalue evening and weekend work and make specialities such as emergency medicine and general practice less attractive, even though the NHS is already struggling to recruit and retain doctors to these areas of medicine,” Malwana asserted.
It has been suggested by critics of the new proposals that trainee doctors and they could be could buy as much as 30 per cent under the government guidelines.”
In addition, under government proposals overtime rates will be scrapped for all junior doctors between 7am and 10pm except on Sundays.
With strong feeling present within the BMA, the form of industrial action that the trade union will recommend to its members is still under discussion.
Predictably the Department of Health was critical of the decision to ballot for industrial action.
A spokesman conveying the views of the department stated that it was “disappointing that the junior doctors’ committee has decided to ballot for industrial action in advance of receiving a formal offer from the government. We urge the BMA to reconsider this decision and come back to the table, because there is a great deal to discuss about how we reward the profession.”
Reporting on the issue today, The Guardian newspaper spoke to several junior doctors, all of whom painted a picture of declining pay and increasingly pressurised conditions within the NHS.
One individual suggested that once mandatory expenses were taken into consideration, she was receiving no more than £10 per hour.
Considering the extent to which qualified medical professionals are sought-after, the plans of the government could contribute to the existing ‘brain drain’.
Many qualified doctors already seek employment in pastures new, and there will be suggestions that the government’s proposals will inevitably exacerbate this existing process.