Exclusive An LMC has told practices it will not ask them to disengage from NHS England’s GP access plan or take part in industrial action, Pulse has learned.
Doncaster LMC said the BMA’s ballot for industrial action is ‘likely to harm negotiations rather than help’ and that it will instead work to ‘positively influence national policy’.
In a letter sent to practices last week, seen by Pulse, Doncaster LMC said the BMA had asked LMCs to confirm whether they would disengage from participation in NHS England’s plan, collect undated resignations from the PCN DES and attend every CQC practice visit.
The letter said: ‘Doncaster LMC has currently chosen not to request that practices disengage or provide undated resignations. We have always maintained support for CQC visits where this is requested.’
The LMC will continue to work on practices’ behalf to ‘create and benefit from positive relationships with providers and commissioners continue to do everything [it] can to positively influence national policy’, it added.
Doncaster LMC chief executive Dr Dean Eggitt’s letter said: ‘We believe that general practice is in dire need of support. We need sustained investment in workforce, buildings and IT infrastructure. We need to minimise unnecessary paperwork, meetings and oversight.
‘To achieve this, we need to have trusted and respectful relationships between leaders of our profession and NHSE and the Government. We do not currently have this.’
It added: ‘It is our current belief that the motion from GPC England and the ballot for industrial action is likely to harm negotiations rather than help, resulting in Government policies that will alienate general practice from the NHS family.’
Dr Eggitt told Pulse that the LMC doesn’t agree with the current BMA GPC position or believe ‘any form of industrial action at the moment is warranted on this topic’.
He said: ‘That’s not to say that we’re in disagreement with how general practice is being treated, or the current Government approach to managing the NHS. We vehemently disagree with many of the policies, but we don’t believe that GP industrial action is the way to solve the problem.’
And the ‘battleground’ chosen for industrial action – declarations of pay above £150k and Covid vaccine medical exemptions – means GPs ‘won’t have the public in our favour and therefore we’ll lose’, he added.
Dr Eggitt said: ‘If we lose, we damage not only the relationship with patients but also with Government, not just now but for years to come. So this industrial action is possibly harmful rather than helpful.
‘If we were saying we want industrial action because general practice has become so unsafe for patients that we’re causing harm and therefore we demand investment in workforce, that’s a perfectly reasonable argument.’
His letter to practices added that there was ‘clear division within the profession’ at a nationwide event held last month by the BMA’s GP Committee to discuss ‘next steps’ following the publication of the access action plan and attended by the LMC.
Meanwhile, other LMC leaders have told Pulse they are awaiting further BMA guidance and feedback from constituent practices before deciding on their position.
County Durham and Darlington LMC vice-chair Dr Kamal Sidhu told Pulse the LMC had an emergency meeting last week and is still clarifying what is required from practices and what it will advise them.
He said: ‘We as an LMC are still discussing it between ourselves – the implications for practices, particularly the partnerships – and we haven’t formally given advice either way as yet. We’ve simply communicated the information from BMA GPC to the practices.’
The LMC will ‘probably’ wait for feedback from practices before it decides but practices and primary care networks are still ‘debating’ among themselves what action they want to take, he added.
And Lancashire and Cumbria LMCs chief executive Peter Higgins told Pulse that the committee is ‘proceeding with caution’ and awaiting ‘further advice and guidance’ from the BMA before making a formal decision on what advice to give practices.
Lincolnshire LMC also held an emergency meeting last week to discuss its position, inviting all practice managers and GPs across the country to share ‘what they want to do’, medical secretary Dr Kieran Sharrock told Pulse.
It comes as GPs are expecting further guidance from the BMA, which also advised practices to immediately start offering consultations of 15 minutes or more; and apply to close their patient list, as part of the fightback against the Government’s new GP access plan.
Meanwhile, new NHS England guidance last week revealed more detail of the hoops GPs will have to jump through to access the £250m winter funding, as well as confirming that some practices needing access ‘support’ will not be eligible for the GP winter access funding.