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Gold, incentives and meh

Half of GPs support industrial action over future below-inflation funding awards

Exclusive Half of GPs are prepared to take industrial action if their practice is given a funding award below inflation next year, shows a survey that reveals the profession’s anger over years of successive funding freezes.

The survey of 458 GPs, found that 50% expressed support for ‘some kind of industrial action’ next year if the Government failed to give a funding award that was in line with inflation.

This compared with 27% of respondents who said they would not support industrial action.

The results come after the Government awarded GPs a below-inflation 0.28% contractual funding uplift for 2014/15, following a series of funding freezes since 2010.

The GPC has said the results are a ‘clear sign of how desperate GPs feel’ about the current funding situation.

Among the 70 GPs who gave comments on what action they were willing to take, 26% said they would strike or close their surgeries temporarily, 14% said they would support a policy of ‘non-co-operation’ and 20% said they would support only carrying out emergency work – as in the ill-fated ‘day of action’ organised by the BMA over pensions in 2012.

The survey comes amid rising concern in the profession about the funding of general practice. The RCGP published data last month showing GPs face a £1.59bn real terms funding cut by 2017 despite predicted patient consultations due to increase by 69 million if current trends continue.

One respondent to the survey, Dr Emma Simmons, a GP in Sittingbourne, Kent, told Pulse: ‘I would like to strike to highlight the gross underfunding in primary care as a whole at the moment, and I think the public would be sympathetic to this because it is affecting them directly.’

‘The Government is continuing to increase the workload of GPs while failing to value the work by paying us accordingly, and slagging us off daily in the press. This affects patient care when morale is so low.’

Dr Hadrian Moss, a GP from Kettering, Northamptonshire, said they he would be willing to participate in some form of action as long as it did not affect patient care.

He said: ‘I would be in favour of refusing to do any referral that is the responsibility of another agency – for example a referral to a community paediatrician that should be done by the school, or a blood or imaging tests requested by consultants that they should be arranging themselves.’

But Dr Iain Taylor, a GP in Aberfeldy, Scotland, warned against industrial action, as GPs had ‘previously lost public support with strikes’.

GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘The results from the survey are a clear sign of how desperate GPs feel about the situation – the survival of their practice and services are at risk, as their funding has been cut since 2006. It’s also a clear sign of their anger and desire to see the right level of funding distributed.’

The Unison union this voted in favour of a ballot of its members for a potential ‘day of protest’ on 5 June over pay, while one BMA Council member, Dr Una Coales, a locum GP in south London, told Pulse she was campaigning for an ‘emergency motion’ at the BMA Annual Representatives Meeting in June encouraging all GPs to resign from their contracts en masse as a result of cuts to primary care.

Survey result

Question: Would you support taking some form of industrial action if GPs are offered a further below inflation pay rise for 2015/16?

Yes - 230 (50%)

No - 124 (27%)

Don’t know - 104 (23%)

Total - 458

About the survey: Pulse launched this survey of readers on 15 April 2014, collating responses using the SurveyMonkey tool. The 25 questions asked covered a wide range of GP topics, to avoid selection bias on any one issue. The survey was advertised to readers via our website and email newsletters, with a prize draw for a Samsung HD TV as an incentive to complete the survey. As part of the survey, respondents were asked to specify their job title. A small number of non-GPs were screened out to analyse the results for this question. This question was answered by 458 GPs.

Readers' comments (31)

  • Surely some kind of action that increases costs but does not directly harm patient care. I would suggest:

    Deeming General Practice to be too busy to safely manage asthma and all asthmatics referred to secondary care.
    Month 2 - heart failure
    Month 3 - diabetes
    Month 4 - hypertension
    Month 5 - migraine
    etc etc etc

    Perhaps add that we no longer do any work for secondary care and the whole system will collapse. You could be a little more sympathetic and split it between departments. Practices beginning a-h refer asthma. i-o refer hypertension etc etc.

    Would cost government a lot (CCGs at least). Would keep the money within the health service (hospitals). Would not directly harm patients - some will get annoyed. Does not need legal mandate with all the associated costs and would be effective.

    Option 2 is to start prescribing drugs by brand name only -although that would be harder to reverse.

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  • Agree with above.Wasn't there a report last week blaming GPs for most asthma deaths.So why don't we start by shipping more of our patients on to secondary care.Adopt a more defensive posture and let the ivory tower egg heads deal with the day to day medical uncertainties that we face. Industrial action will just create extra workload the following day.Collective disengagement from paperwork is a better option.

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  • Mass civil disobedience is more fun and more effective than striking. The OOH idea is a total winner.

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  • We are not united enough for a strike.

    I am afraid it is 'every man for himself' now as the ship starts to sink.

    Good luck to all.

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  • Took Early Retirement

    I think the ooh is a winner as it can be spread by e mail, so no one can be blamed. It is voluntary, after all. Sorry no to be taking part in the fun but I have in my own way by stopping 2.5 years early. Last working day 29th May. Currently in Bavaria on my last hols before finally withdrawing my labour for good.

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  • Stop doing OOH and / or resign. It is not just below inflation pay rises.
    My accountant , who has over 40 GP practices points out one fact.
    With the workload increase and pay cuts in real terms our pay per item has fallen by 50 %. That is a 50 % pay cut in 10 years from eg £ 20 to £ 10 per consultation. [ Was £ 80 for 4 consults [ in today's money ] reduced to £ 60 [ today ] for 6 consultations.
    He showed that if you factor in paper work and tax and NIC , take home pay per consult is now £ 3.00 or thereabouts. This is silly. We behave like spineless whingers and the conciliatory GPC has a lot to do with this.
    If we wish to stay in the NHS, then we must be aware that the DOH can impose anything at anytime at any price.
    Even agreements and arrangements can be and WILL be reneged on, as MPIG and pensions clearly demonstrate.
    We HAVE to RESIGN from this one sided Contract, which is really not a Contract at all, as Contracts are defined.

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  • Strange, what an interpretation of the survey,
    Pulse says 50% of GPs favours industrial action instead of saying that only 27% GPs are against the Industrial action.

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  • With respective to my fellow doctors, I believe doctors or the BMA cannot do anything in their own interest or that of the profession, they have to follow what the government dictates.
    They are conditioned to consider that
    They belong to a noble profession where extra work must be done free of charge
    They should not earn more as that will be considered as greed

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  • Perhaps GP's should work to the European Directive 37.5 hours week, shut their surgeries and go home!

    Another option might be to publish how much GPs have left in their pockets after paying expenses to run their practice, tax insurance etc. Their salary, after so many years training, may sound grand but compare that to a footballer with little brain that gets paid millions just to kick a ball around a field?compare ... there is no comparison.
    The real problem is that we have forgotten how to value our GP's or respect the fact their working day doesn't start and end when the surgery opens and closes.
    My GP can be seen at the surgery before 7 a.m. and after 7 p.m. long after patients have gone home, ticking boxes fro this useless government who haven't got a clue what a hard days work is.

    GP's need to put their foot down, they are paid to care for the sick, not fill in silly bits of paper to prove they have done that ... unless of course,this government feels all GP's are as dishonest as they are?

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  • Not to be a cynic but we, as a profession, do a lot of moaning and compalning but very few people are actually willing to try to do anything about it. And even those who try, get shot down, outshouted or simply ignored. I speak from having sat on more than a few RCGP and other committees. Lots of talk, no actual action. Until we actually stand up to be counted, nothing is going to chnage. Same old arguments over and over.

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