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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)

  • Nice to debate. Invite more BMA guns down.

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  • The MP's know there are just 'Empty threats'. GP's have no balls.

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  • Dr Henderson is right, but the only ones stood in the tent right now are the GPs, as I don't believe that the decisions made by the government are in any way calculated to make primary care work.

    Yes, mass resignation is the weapon of last resort, and I agree, the timing of when to hit the button is crucial.

    May I suggest we reserve it for a time when morale is rock bottom, recruitment is non-existent, workload is unsafe and unmanageable, and practices are closing (but late for them to hit the button, but you get my point)?

    Really, just how bad does it have to be before we start hitting back, because "standing in a tent with the government to make primary care work" sounds suspiciously like a spineless soundbite from one of the cardy wearers.

    Just now we have the consultants bullied back to the consulting table under the threat of unilateral imposition of a contract, the juniors sensibly walking away from the same fate and balloting for a strike - Jeremy has it in for all of us. What better to time to show some solidarity for a change and stand with out colleagues?

    Better that than a slow cachectic death as we leave bit by bit. Who knows, if the government are forced to something big it might even mean decent healthcare for the people we are supposed to look after.

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  • General Practice can not take any more work on. We are already collapsing. GPs are retiring, some are resigning to do locom work, many young GPs are emigrating, junior doctors are not choosing to become GPs.

    Things can not go one like this!

    So what do you think we should do?

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  • I realise that this debate is about about a point of principle, rather than a realistic action but still... it's a bit of a non starter, given the cash flow of most GP practices and the private GP market outside of central London.
    There's also the question of where you would practice, for a lot of GP's.

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  • Politicians have been playing us for a long time and check mate is their last move. All we can do now is work to rule as much as possible. Sorry, it's my lunch brake, sorry I ended my shift a minute ago, sorry this is not gms work please ask the receptionist for a fees list....

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  • No OOH for 1 month would be far more effective. It would be difficult to hang the blame on us because no one believes we do any OOH work in the first place ; the government would be forced to negotiate

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  • Rather than resigning - which most people know are empty threats - it would be better refusing sick notes, crem forms,

    Even as far as refusing visits - use the 999 service

    Something which we can get the vast majority of us to stop doing

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  • General Practice is now impossible to do full time. The days of 28 year olds signing on for 9 sessions a week for 35 years have completely gone. But half time GP is still very possible - and so anybody who works more than 5 sessions a week should look for portfolio options to maintain their sanity , health and interest. If your mortgage is too big in the South East of Engalnd move up North where jobs are plenty and you can afford to work less.

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  • Only way out is ALL resign.

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