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GPs vote ‘overwhelmingly’ for continued BMA mandate on PCN DES


no covid funding for general practice


The BMA’s GP Committee will be able to continue negotiating the terms of the Primary Care Network (PCN) DES with the backing of a vast majority of GPs.

Some 80% of 4,534 GPs who took part in the vote on the GPC’s future negotiating mandate voted in favour, the BMA has announced.

It said this gives the GPC a ‘firm mandate’ to continue negotiations.

The ballot, which closed at midnight on Wednesday, had asked:  ‘Prior to any further negotiations, extension or changes for 2021/22, do you give GPC England a mandate for the PCN directed enhanced service?’

It was put to all practising GPs in England including partners, sessional GPs and trainees.

Launching the poll, the BMA urged GPs to ‘consider the potential implications and consequences’ of their vote.

It said the ballot would inform ‘future negotiations’ – with GPC continuing to negotiate ‘amendments’ to the DES for its remaining three years if general practice votes in favour.

However, if practices had voted against the mandate, the BMA said the GPC would be ‘unable to continue discussions with NHS England’ around the DES and NHS England would decide how to ‘proceed’ with PCNs.

It warned that this could include continuing to offer the DES to practices without BMA input, transferring the requirements and funding to non-GP providers or transferring ‘some or all’ of the funding to other parts of the NHS.

GPC England chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘We are glad that the profession has spoken so clearly, giving GPC England a clear mandate for the PCN directed enhanced service and telling us that we should continue negotiating this important contract on behalf of grassroots GPs throughout the country.

‘With more than 99% of practices now being a member of a PCN, it is vital that GPs and their teams have a voice and a seat at the negotiating table – both locally and nationally – and the BMA is proud to represent GPs’ views as it has done since the contract was developed two years ago.’

He added: ‘GPC England will now go forward with this, emboldened by this renewed mandate, determined to achieve the best for general practice, family doctors and their patients.’

Although ‘significant challenges remain’, PCNs are helping practices ‘reduce their workload’ through additional staff and funding and there is ‘cautious optimism’ amid clinical directors, Dr Vautrey said.

However, the Government must ‘acknowledge’ the ‘real challenges’ faced by GPs and ‘do more to support the flexible development of PCNs’ during the pandemic ‘and beyond’, he added. 

In November, GP leaders attending England’s LMCs conference voted in favour of putting the PCN DES to a ballot of the whole GP profession.

The introduction of the PCN DES last year was mired in controversy, including becoming subject to a special LMC conference which voted to reject it.

After it was endorsed by the GPC, 98% of practices signed up to the DES in May. 

At the time, NHS England’s announcement said that the ‘near total’ uptake ‘reflects support’ for PCNs which are ‘helping improve care for patients across the country’.

Practices were also given an opportunity to opt out of the DES in September, after NHS England updated its terms.

A recent Pulse analysis revealed that PCNs continue to split opinion, with some reporting little benefit so far and continued difficulties with recruitment.

READERS' COMMENTS [12]

Andrew Jackson 21 January, 2021 11:51 am

What a stitch up!
Unstoppable destruction of primary care is now in place.

Turn out The lights 21 January, 2021 12:05 pm

Didnt want them to do it but was the format of the voting page and couldnt change my mind?Good job they wont be seeing any of my money again.

Darren Tymens 21 January, 2021 12:20 pm

So, around 7% of the profession voted in favour of letting GPC Exec negotiate on the PCN DES.
93% either didn’t vote, or voted against.
This does not appear to be a mandate, let alone ‘an overwhelming mandate’. What the profession wanted was a vote on whether supporting the PCN DES should be BMA policy, or whether PCNs represent too great a risk to the future of the profession.
BMA and the GPC Exec effectively neutered the vote by choosing the specific wording they used. This was not in the spirit of the motion at Conference.

Concerned GP 21 January, 2021 2:00 pm

Agree with above. Only 4534 GPs voted in this. It’s utterly ridiculous and the BMA have fudged it. This is not a mandate.

terry sullivan 21 January, 2021 2:51 pm

bma has always been useless

leave–at least you then wont be paying to be shafted

Michael Smith 21 January, 2021 3:34 pm

I think what the BMA need to take away from this is the large number of GPs who DIDN’T vote in the poll and ask why the total lack of enthusiasm.

If PCNs are the great saviour then where was the ground swell from GPs.

This was a significant result just not for the reasons the BMA think.

David OHagan 21 January, 2021 4:12 pm

The question answered was quite unclear.
The mandate allows negotiation, but in which direction?
To remove PCNs, or to allow them to take over the whole of practice.
The BMA should be thankful they have such a small response rate.

Nick Mann 21 January, 2021 4:30 pm

Very unhappy about this coercive ballot. Riding on the back of the Special LMC vote rejecting the PCN DES and the call for an all-GP ballot, BMA should represent that perspective. It was a coerced vote of confidence in the BMA, not a solicitation of purpose and policy towards the now predictable future of GPs within PCNs. Poor leadership from BMA.

Patrufini Duffy 21 January, 2021 4:48 pm

PCN is nothing but NHSE + Government herding you in a pen. Paradoxically easier for the hospital and ICS to shaft you, and link any PCN-DES contract to your core contract. Which you better not breach. You are now on track to becoming social care.

Michael Mullineux 21 January, 2021 9:05 pm

A resounding mandate for apathy

Decorum Est 22 January, 2021 12:19 am

Never mind. There are hoards of youngsters with ‘social commitment’ heading for the ‘balmy shores’ of ‘primary medical care and acute/emergency medicine’. They will get us thro’ our old age (it’s a shame that their naïveté won’t save them but He Ho).