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The waiting game

Majority of GPs back commissioning boycott as 'outmanouvered' GPC blamed in contract row

Exclusive Half of GPs think that the GPC has done a poor job in negotiations with the Government over the GP contract, but the majority would support the union if it pushed for a boycott of commissioning, a Pulse survey has found.

The snapshot poll of 226 GPs found 51% believe the GPC has done a poor or very poor job in representing the profession in negotiations on the 2013/14 GP contract. Only 14% thought it had done a good or very good job, while 35% said it had done a fair job.

The results of the poll put the GPC leadership in a difficult position as it prepares to consult the profession on the planned changes in a series of roadshows starting this month.

Asked what action the GPC should take, 52% said they would support a call from the GPC to boycott commissioning, while more than a third (36%) thought the GPC should be collecting undated letters of resignation from GPs.

A clear majority of GPs (74%) said they would support a publicity campaign informing the public about the damage the contract imposition could cause.

But fewer than one-in-five GPs (18%) said they would support a ballot on strike action, reflecting the disappointing turnout in the ‘day of action’ over pensions last summer that saw just one in ten GPs actively taking part.

Dr Grant Ingrams, a GP in Coventry and a former GPC member, said the GPC had allowed itself to be ‘outmanouvered’.

He said: ‘The GPC should have been engaging with the press regarding the ongoing obvious agenda to undermine general practice to convert it from a personalised service to a faceless ‘Tesco-ised’ impersonal service which suits the relatively well middle classes and not those with the highest health needs.’

But another respondent, Dr Josef Kuriacose, a GP in Northern Ireland, said: ‘If we do not back the GPC, we cannot complain. We have to have teeth, be prepared to use it and take our chances in a different world.’

Find out the latest on the GP contract here

GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey said the opinions expressed in the survey were ‘understandable’.

He said: ‘Whenever you are in a position of imposition you would anticipate the profession to have hoped it would be in a different place.’

‘It is understandable why people are so angry. I think the key is to not shoot the messenger and direct their anger towards their Government, the ones who are not prepared to negotiate in a reasonable way.’

But Dr Vautrey said that figures did not prove there was sufficient support for a boycott of commissioning.

He said: ‘You only need for 5% to 10% of GPs to be part of CCG activity for it to be effective and go ahead. In fact we would need an overwhelming boycott of commissioning in order for it to have any effect at all.’

‘I think what is much more likely is that GPs will find that with the increase in workload in their practices, GPs will find it much more difficult to [find time] to take part in CCG meetings and activity. The knock-on effect will speak for itself.’

This story was updated to include rounded survey percentages.

Poll results

How good a job do you believe the GPC has done in representing the profession in negotiations on the GP contract this year?

Good or very good: 14%

Fair: 35%

Poor or very poor: 51%


Which of the following steps would you support the GPC taking in response to the proposed contract changes?

Undertaking a publicity campaign to explain potential damage to practices: 74%

Calling for a GP boycott of commissioning: 52%

Collecting undated letters of resignation: 36%

Holding a ballot on a strike: 18%

Holding a ballot on industrial action short of a strike: 23%


Total GP respondents: 226

Let us know your opinions on some of the pressing issues facing general practice bybtaking part in our survey, and enter our draw for a Fortnum and Mason’s hamper.

Readers' comments (7)

  • What astonishes me about this is that 50% of my colleagues DIDN'T think the GPC did a poor job....

    GPC is past its sell by date in my view

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  • Peter Swinyard

    OK, so if the GPC is past its sell-by date, with what would you replace it as our negotiating body in England, where we have a single authority (from April) holding our contracts? I think we sometimes miusunderestimate the GPC's skilled professional negotiators (yes, they are) and what they do behind the scenes to prevent all sorts of foulness and calumny being visited upon us. I am always interested in a fair debate on our representation but blaming the messenger for the message is not truly helpful.

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  • Vinci Ho

    Editor , please note the comments displayed here are for another previous article

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  • This has now been fixed. Thank you

  • Mark Struthers

    GPs were once independent advocates for patients. Targets and then QOF have turned professionals into donkeys chasing carrots. Meanwhile, the GPC have looked on and growled pathetically like a pride of lazy lions.

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  • How statistically significant is this arguement - 51% of 226 GPs is 113

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  • Interesting to see Peter Swinyard commenting here. He was one of the main advocates of the Health and Social Care Bill as FDA Chairman. In same league as the NAPC and NHS Alliance.

    "Family Doctor Association Chair Dr Peter Swinyard agrees that the bill is a positive step forward for GPs:

    “What it means for GPs in the future is a greater feeling of control over what services their patients can receive and the chance to innovate to do the things which in some circumstances we have been trying to do for years, but which have become mired in bureaucracy."

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  • Typical knee jerk reaction. Fine, boycott commissioning, a third would've been hopeless anyway, a third average and the final third OK. Then all the 4000 people being made redundant can keep their jobs. Or not, if they just decide to hand it all to McKinseys or KPMG. Practices will be forced to merge and more doctors will be salaried. It won't make a difference to patient care if you stop coming to CCG meetings. What is wrong with medical leadership? How can you all be so intelligent and passionate about care and quality and yet get stuff like this so wrong? And how it's communicated too. It's such a shame.

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