GPs are not showing ‘a particular desire’ to strike or take industrial action over pay, the RCGP chair has told MPs.
The committee posed questions about NHS strikes as well as pay negotiations for next year.
Professor Hawthorne said: ‘At the moment, GPs are not showing a particular desire to strike or to think about industrial action. However, GP trainees are members of our college and we have to support them.
‘We are not a trade union, we don’t enter into pay disputes at all, so there’s very little I can say other than concurring that it’s time for some direct negotiation and really getting people around the table to sort this out.’
Also in today’s hearing, Professor Hawthorne told MPs that on retention, the workforce plan ‘is just not ambitious enough’, adding: ‘The modelling suggests that there would be plus 700 GPs in retention by 2036 – that is just not nearly enough.’
She added: ‘What we don’t see is enough on retention, we are currently losing GPs faster than we are gaining them.
‘Since I became chair of council last November we lost 930 full-time equivalent GPs in England, and that’s with GP trainees still coming though the other end.
‘That is really worrying and dispiriting, and we are finding that people are leaving the profession at all stages.’
And she said: ‘There is nothing at the moment that would stop a GP from leaving other than hope on the horizon.’
Professor Hawthorne was a witness alongside GMC’s chief executive Charlie Massey, RCN England director Patricia Marquis as well as writer and former doctor Adam Kay.
Mr Massey also told MPs that retention is ‘a really critical issue’ for the short and medium terms.
He said: ‘I think there is a lot more to do around retention but we should embrace the fact that there is a chapter [about that in the plan] and take that as an invitation to help with the details.’
Dr Kay told MPs the plan was ‘vague’ and agreed it lacked detail on how to retain staff, focusing instead of bringing retired doctors back into the workforce.
He said: ‘Recruit back retired doctors – that’s not retention, that’s resuscitation. What are we actually doing to keep the staff in? And wellbeing is a huge part of it, but so is pay.
‘I think it’s borderline laughable that pay gets not a single sentence [in the plan], it needs to be acknowledged as a crucial thing.’
When the plan was published at the end of June, GP leaders called the Government and NHS England out on their lack of plans to retain existing GPs.