Exclusive The BMA’s GP Committee is planning to get together for an emergency meeting ‘around Easter’ to discuss whether to take industrial action in response to the Government’s contract imposition.
The GP Defence Fund (GPDF), which is funded via LMC levies, has agreed to directly fund the meeting after Pulse revealed that the BMA refused to do so.
GPDF has put aside £50,000 to fund the meeting directly. In addition, Pulse has also learned of a £200,000 budget set aside for ‘contingency’ given that ‘it’s a tumultuous time for the profession’.
NHS England has imposed 2024/25 contract tweaks on GPs to start next month, which includes more stipulations around access but crucially no extra funding.
In response, GPC England said it would be looking at all options including industrial action and a BMA working group has been floating options going further than before.
The group was launched last year to consider and develop options available to GPs in England should the committee decide to formally ballot the profession on industrial action.
Pulse understands that options for action go beyond practices pausing all ARRS recruitment and disengaging from the demands of the PCN DES, which had already been discussed by the union in the past.
It has been thought that ‘strike’ action, or something similar – with GPs withdrawing services for a day – would not be possible because GPs are not employed.
But legal experts have told Pulse that this kind of option was a possibility for GP practices. However, GP leaders have warned that there is little appetite for such action.
GPDF chair Dr Zoe Norris told Pulse: ‘The board of GPDF were asked to fund an additional emergency meeting of GPCE by the GPCE Executive team.
‘Given the imposition for a second year of the GP contract by the government in England, and the urgency of a national response, we have approved the required funding of £50k to allow a face to face meeting for the full committee.
‘We hope this will give GPC members the time needed to help LMCs directly support the GPs they work hard to represent.’
It comes as most LMCs are restarting payments of voluntary levies to the GPDF, after a row between committees and the organisation saw around one-third of LMCs withdrawing their contributions.
During a GPDF general meeting held this week, the new board members including Dr Norris, Dr Julius Parker and Dr Paul Evans updated LMCs on their plans for the organisation.
Some of the updates included the new priorities of the GPDF including:
- All expenditure justifiable to LMCs
- Positive discussions with LMCs
- An internal review of structure
- Operate within budget
- Legal costs reduced
- No £40k on research/surveys
- No worldwide travel insurance for directors
The new leadership team also confirmed that there would be ‘No National Association of LMCs’.
The limited company collects money from LMCs to support GP interests, including funding the BMA’s GP Committee and LMC conferences.
But some LMCs started to suspend payments in September last year due to concerns about the organisation’s finances and a perceived lack of transparency about how their contributions were being used.
LMCs pay a voluntary ‘quota’ or levy of 3p per head of patient population, which totalled £1,946,375 in payments to the GPDF in 2021 and 1,884,000 this year.