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FAQs for GPs on taking industrial action

Will all GPs have to take part, can salaried GPs take action and will it be a strike? Pulse answers eight key questions for GPs regarding proposed industrial action.

Give us your views in our two-minute industrial action survey

When will doctors be taking industrial action?

The first planned day of action will be 21 June. The BMA has not ruled out further days of action.

 

What action will GPs be taking?

Doctors taking part in the day of action will not do routine work on the day, but will still attend surgery for the whole day and see patients in urgent need of care.

The BMA says providing urgent and emergency care will consist of providing any treatment which you believe cannot be safely postponed to another day. Examples it gives include:

• In primary care, care of patients who consider themselves in need of urgent attention that day.

• Any patient whom doctors feel uncomfortable postponing, for clinical reasons.
• Emergency and urgent procedures, investigations and discharges for inpatients.
• Outpatients under close review for unstable condition (eg. deteriorating Crohn's).
• Documentation necessary for safe discharge and any urgent community care or follow-up
• Emergency department and labour ward or early pregnancy attendances.

Do I have to take industrial action?

The BMA says it would strongly encourage you to support your colleagues by taking action or demonstrating your support (whatever you voted in the ballot). However, you are under no obligation to take part in the day of action.

What happens if not all GPs in a practice wish to participate in industrial action?

Each practice will need to make the decision how to operate. If not all partners wish to participate, an agreement should be reached on operational issues.

The BMA says it would be reasonable for a practice to ask a salaried GP or locum not to undertake routine appointments for the day and it would encourage all practices to support salaried and other colleagues who choose to participate in industrial action, regardless of the practice's stance. Employees are protected from unfair dismissal.  

I am a salaried GP. Will I be paid if I participate in the day of action?

Your practice can refuse to pay you.

Is it a strike?

No. On the ballot paper, the BMA asked whether doctors would be prepared to take strike action. This was to provide the union with legalprotection and to provide flexibility.

Isn't the dispute really with the Government and not my employer?

Although the dispute over pensions is with the Government, rather than the employer directly, lawful industrial action can still be taken. Trade union law recognises that a dispute about pensions is, in reality, a dispute between "workers and their employer" as pension benefits form part of the employment contract.

What about locum GPs - should they be taking industrial action too?
If you are contracted by the PCO, then you can take part in action. However, if you are self-employed or employed by an agency, you would not have been balloted.

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