A record number of new members joined the BMA ahead of the junior doctor strike action, the union has said.
More than 184,000 doctors are now members, with 17,000 having joined since the start of 2023.
This ‘surge in membership’ came ahead of a first walkout by junior doctors for 72 hours from Monday until Wednesday last week.
Yesterday, the BMA announced that junior doctors will strike again in April – this time for four days – after the Government ‘failed to make any credible offer’ in new talks over pay.
The BMA’s GP Committee for England is also preparing for a potential trade dispute with the Government over GP funding and workload, after NHS England imposed contract amendments on the profession for a second time in two years.
In a webinar for GPs held on Wednesday this week, acting chair of GPCE Dr Kieran Sharrock encouraged GPs to join the BMA, as the committee will be able to use increased membership numbers ‘as evidence’ in negotiations with Government.
He told GPs that they will have to ‘act together’ if they want to bring about a change in behaviour in the Government, following two years of contract impositions, and as the GPCE begins negotiations over a new contract following the end of the five-year deal next year.
GPCE leaders said they had to be honest with GPs that industrial action which constitutes a contract break does come with ‘risk’ and that challenging the Government would ‘take courage’.
The webinar also updated GPs on the potential options for industrial action, including closing surgeries fully for a day, closure of patient lists, establishing lengthy GP consultation patient waiting lists, ‘severe’ capping of daily consultations per GPs to safe/sustainable levels and/or submitting undated contract resignations.
Dr Sharrock said GPCE may need to come to GPs with an industrial action ballot ‘for leverage’ but that it would be doing so ‘as a last resort’.
Earlier this week, GPCE gave the Government a list of changes that must be made – ‘at a minimum’ – to the imposed 2023/24 contract to avoid a threat of industrial action by GPs.
More than 36,000 BMA junior doctor members voted in favour of strikes over a ‘26% real-terms cut’ to their pay since 2008.