The BMA has urged GPs not to step in and cover for striking ambulance workers after practices and PCNs across London were asked by NHS England to deploy staff.
Acting chair of GPC England Dr Kieran Sharrock said the request shows how out of touch NHS leaders were with the crisis facing healthcare staff.
Diverting GPs and other practice staff risks putting patients at harm, increasing waiting times and harming the wellbeing of already overstretched general practice teams, he said.
‘Of course, we are supportive of healthcare staff who feel they are left with no choice but to strike, and as the BMA we would not recommend our members to undertake work which would undermine the strike action of another staff group,’ he said.
‘Besides, our colleagues are specially-trained professionals in their own right and cannot be replaced by GPs, in the same way that paramedics or nurses cannot replace the role of a GP.’
A letter from NHS England, sent out through ICBs, had asked that clinical staff be released to support the London Ambulance Service (LAS) during the Unison strike on 21 December.
The ‘urgent request’ sent to GP practices, PCN leads and GP Federations, asked that GPs as well as advanced paramedics or others with urgent care experience cover two shifts on the day of the planned industrial action.
Dr Sharrock added: ‘Surely NHS England and the Government are abundantly aware that we already have too few GPs for the number of patients who need our care and it is no secret that general practice is already operating beyond a safe capacity, with staff struggling to deliver the kind of care they want to.
‘We cannot spread ourselves even more thinly. Caring for patients is our primary concern, and it is vital that we devote ourselves to doing this within our practices, and not artificially shoring up other parts of the NHS impacted by industrial action.’
The letter, seen by Pulse, stated: ‘LAS are keen to have experienced medics and nurses, who have current urgent and emergency clinical exposure, have knowledge of how to navigate the system and can operate as a senior clinical decision maker.
‘Medical Practitioners would ideally be from General Practice and Emergency Medicine. Advanced Paramedics and Advanced Care Practitioners with urgent care or IUC CAS experience are also required.’