The BMA’s GP Committee has taken legal advice stating that GPs can take industrial action, which it is due to publish.
In a debate about industrial action at the UK LMC Conference today, some delegates stated independent contractors cannot take industrial action but acting GPC England chair Dr Kieran Sharrock said this was not the case.
The conference also voted to support a motion which backed GPs taking industrial action in a bid to achieve ‘pay restoration’.
The motion said GPs should ‘take a similar approach’ to junior doctors – who have staged walk-outs in recent months. It also said GPs ‘must consider’ industrial action to ‘achieve full pay restoration’.
Dr Sharrock told delegates: ‘I’ve come to correct some statements that have been made, that independent contractors cannot take industrial action.
‘We have legal advice – independent contractors can take industrial action – we will share the legal advice with you and we will also share with you the way we think you can take industrial action in the coming months.’
Dr Mark Green, from Berkshire LMC, who proposed the motion, said: ‘It is time for general practice to make the same stand.
‘There is currently a perfect storm in general practice in the four nations. A combination of factors, including a rise in patients’ demand, falling GP numbers and financial pressures on practices, has created an immensely challenging environment for GPs to work in.
‘GPs are the backbone of the NHS, we provide vital care to millions of patients every year, we deserve to be compensated fairly for our work.’
He added: ‘It is time to demand fair compensation for the critical work that we do, we must be prepared to consider industrial action to achieve this. Other approaches have not worked and our profession is dying a death by a thousand cuts.’
Speaking against the motion, Dr David Bailey, from GPC Wales, said: ‘I could restore my pay tomorrow, sack all my staff, switch the lights off, switch the heating off, thank you very much indeed – that’s not what we are looking for.
‘What we want is resource restoration, and that’s not what this motion says. If you are a contractor supplying services in primary care, it’s very difficult to work out how you go on strike without putting that contract at risk.’
However, Dr Mairi Reid, from Sefton LMC, argued in favour, saying: ‘What do they have to do to us before we act? How much more are we going to put up with?’
She added: ‘Being professionals means that we know our worth and how hard we worked to get there, and we know we don’t have to work for free.
‘We must join juniors and consultants, we must tell our governments that we do not accept this anymore.’
GPC England has urged doctors to join the BMA ahead of a potential ballot over industrial action if 2024/25 contract negotiations turn sour.
An emergency meeting of the GPC at the end of last month voted to abandon any plans to ballot the profession over industrial action in protest over imposed contractual changes for this year.
Motion in full
AGENDA COMMITTEE TO BE PROPOSED BY BERKSHIRE: That conference applauds the organisation and courage of the Junior Doctors’ Committee and:
(i) fully supports junior doctors in England in their strike action and drive for pay restoration PASSED
(ii) demands a similar approach to be taken by GPs for full pay restoration for general practice PASSED
(iii) believes GPs must consider industrial action to achieve full pay restoration for general practice. PASSED