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BMA raises threat of private general practice

By Steve Nowottny

The BMA has drawn up a sensational plan for GPs to quit the NHS en masse in response to the Government's plans to force through extended hours, Pulse can reveal.

In a potentially incendiary document written by GPC negotiators and committee members, GPs are warned it could be the only option to fight back against Government funding cuts.

Despite predicting a major media backlash, in which GPs would be portrayed as the ‘wreckers of the NHS', the GPC said there could be real benefit to practices – and that ‘the cost to individual patients would not necessarily be huge'.

The document says: ‘If the Government intends to impose such major cuts on our funding, we may have to face the possibility of an exit strategy from the NHS entirely. This would be a huge step. All current income streams would be lost and GPs would have to face a much more uncertain future.'

But the document claims ‘there are real advantages in the profession threatening to leave now' because the Government does not yet have sufficient manpower to replace GPs were they to resign en masse.

It suggests practices could all adopt APMS contracts and partner with corporate providers.

According to the GPC's preliminary costings, patients could be charged between £20 and £25 per consultation, with additional fees charged for other work.

The proposals came as the BMA announced this week that GPs will be polled in mid-February on the Government's contract offer. If the deal is rejected by GPs, ministers have warned they will unilaterally impose far tougher terms.

The briefing document – which has already been used in GPC presentations to members – outlines a range of possible responses to an imposition.

Although it devotes most space to what its authors call the ‘end of the world' scenario – the departure from the NHS – other options are considered. These include a boycott by all GPs of Choose and Book or GPs urging their patients to refuse to have their electronic records added to the NHS spine.

Dr Richard Vautrey, GPC deputy chair, claimed the document was ‘simply pointing out the major difficulties of quitting the NHS so that any discussions in these meetings could take place within that context'.

He said: ‘It's not as simple as the way dentists have moved into private dentistry.'

Dr Richard Vautrey, GPC deputy chair: quitting the NHS is not as easy for GPs as dentists Dr Richard Vautrey, GPC deputy chair GPC briefing document GPC briefing document

'There are real advantages in threatening to leave the NHS now, as we currently have far more leverage than we may have in future'

The BMA presentation on the contract dispute and GPs' options The BMA presentation on the contract options NHS ribbons BMA statement in response to Pulse story

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