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GPs to debate resignation from the NHS en masse

GPs will debate whether the profession should resign from the NHS en masse at the Pulse Live conference tomorrow.

The debate, taking place in Liverpool, will see delegates voting on the question ‘Is it time for all GPs to resign from their NHS contracts?’, and will involve chair of the Family Doctor Association Dr Peter Swinyard and Dr Zoe Norris, media lead for GP Survival.

The panel will be debating whether it is time for GPs to take the major step in response to health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s ‘new deal’, in which he pushed for GPs to offer seven-day access.

It also comes as junior doctors are going to be balloted by the BMA on whether to take industrial action in response to the Government imposing a contract that will see Saturday working reclassified as ‘sociable’ hours.

In a preview to the debate, Dr John Cosgrove, a GP in Birmingham, argued that the message about GPs’ workload is not getting through to ministers, as evidenced by the ‘new deal’.

He added: ‘Experience tells us the only effective negotiating tool to bring about real change is a credible threat of mass GP resignation. Holding undated letters of resignation enabled the BMA to negotiate the 2004 GP contract, and the time has now come for a similar move.

‘This has the potential to persuade the Government to resource general practice adequately and to support us in defining our remit and that of the NHS.’

Dr Roger Henderson, a GP in Shropshire who will also be on the panel, says that at first glance, resigning en masse ‘may seem like a no brainer’.

However, he adds that to make primary care work, ‘we have to be inside the NHS tent talking to ministers’.

He says: ‘If we fire our one and only negotiating bullet – the one marked ”Stuff this” – from our elephant gun then, yes, there will be a lot of noise, we will briefly feel better and it will shake up the media and politicians.

‘But once the shock and awe has settled, the NHS will still be there, patients with no one to trust but their GP will still need to be seen, long-term care in the community will not have suddenly disappeared and, perhaps most importantly, we will have a divided profession since the one thing we can all probably agree on is that we’ll never get 100% of GPs signing resignation letters.’

Readers' comments (45)

  • the problem is we are our own worst enemies. you may get the odd GP here and there, like me, who is quite strict about home visits, sick notes, prescriptions and referrals, who say no a lot - when it's appropriate to say no, and who bounce back the majority of unfunded work...but for every 1 of me, there's 10 GPs willing to be screwed by everybody, happily inviting the extra workload.

    They cite reasons such as:
    1. Patients will complain
    2. Patients will be unhappy
    3. But what if the little old lady ringing every day for a home visit really does have a chest infection this time despite the last 28 days of consecutive visits not having one and nothing has changed?
    4. But if we don't do sick notes hospital won't
    5. But..but...but the list goes on.

    Until we ALL sing from the same hymn sheet Primary Care is stuff.

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  • Sadly I think you are correct.

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  • Vinci Ho

    Listening to the statements from both 'Yes' and 'NO' camps this morning ,I could sense a common consensus of a urgent need of a more militant and stronger Union.
    I personally voted 'NO' but really was a 'NO' with conditions: may be strategically the answer is YES but ultimately I hope , should be a NO.
    I was taught in my GP training not to be judgemental and to confront my patients but I was never taught not to confront politicians. We ,doctors, are trying to avoid politics if possible . Hence , we lack that wit in dealing with dirty politics fundamentally.
    The truth , we have now been pushed to a corner and we have become the 'no-man in the no man's land.' We need desperate and radical measures in this single , critical point of time in the history of our profession . Not all our decisions will be blessed with moral clarity. But solidarity is vital. We need clever as well as radical political approach. If we need to go at the politicians' jugulars , so be it.
    Perhaps , the older ones of us are more hesitant but clearly the young colleagues are building up the momentum of a revolution . I am more eager to see the Butterfly Effect of that......,

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  • The answer needs qualifying either way:
    1) Yes resign, and all refuse to work for anyone else. Open surgeries privately as you did before, and have a clear charging structure, and let the electorate decide what the govt should do about it - whether they should fund it or insurance should. Don't feel you have to be the saviour of the NHS - this is beyond your remit. Your job is to take care of your staff and practice. Have a plan in place for when you jump ship, and do it all together.
    2) No one jumps ship, but we all agree a list of work we'll stop doing and what the cost of us remaining needs to be. This leaves (1) open as an option, but gives them chance to change.

    My opinion, for what its' worth - it will be easier to get the proffession to agree to quit than to hold the line on refusing workload and stay. And HMG don't want to negotiate terms. Reluctantly, I say we all quit, but that's the start of the journey, not the end.

    There is of course, option 3.
    3) Carry on as you are until you suffer huge personal consequences through stress, litigation and financial collapse until the point where the outcome of what would have happened if you'd quit happens anyway, but without the support of numbers or the freedom to choose how and when. Incidentally folks, this is the option you're all choosing by default until you do one of the other two.

    Time to fight.

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  • I'm off sick due to stress, but as things with my situation are improving, I'm thinking about returning to work. I had to resign from my salaried job as too stressful on top of the nightmare other stuff in my life. If I knew I was seeing 12 patients per session with 15 minutes per patient I would be back next week, however this is never going to happen so I'll need to figure out a different plan.

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  • People forget too easily that doing nothing is not necessarily the lowest risk option. General Practice is broken and does need fixing.

    The BMA should be looking beyond simple resignation and working out some plans for what our subsequent options would be.

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  • Anonymous | Sessional/Locum GP29 Sep 2015 12:57pm

    Doing nothing is never the lowest risk option. Watching and waiting may be prudent but it must then be followed by action.

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  • GPs should have headhunted Bob Crow while he was still alive and formed a formidable trade union. If he could get Tube drivers £60k a year basic with triple time on bank holidays then imagine what he could've done for us.

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  • As if anyone is gonna really resign.Get real and be honest,if you want to resign just go and do it instead of employing childish playground tactics'if you do it first then I will too'... 'I did it ! you dared me didn't you'...'what u idiot I didn't mean it ,I can't believe you did it you fool ha ha I'm gonna call up my friends and tell them your jobs up for grabs ! Nice you sucker '

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  • Once you resign, there is no guarantee (if an agreement was reached) that everyone would get their jobs back. the government would use this tactic to get rid of single GP practices and anyone that does not toe the line!

    It would be better to restrict services, only do what you are paid to do ... then see how quickly the patients will fight your battle for you!

    The european directive states folk should work 37.5 hours a week ... be good doctors and do as you are told ... which is what this government want, but only on their terms. What you cannot do in that time, doesn't get done!

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