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Eight in 10 GPs support industrial action over junior doctor contract

Exclusive More than 8 in 10 senior GPs support registrars and junior doctors taking industrial action over the proposed imposition of a contract by the Government, a Pulse survey has revealed.

The survey of 866 non-trainee GPs found that 84% said they would support their colleagues in taking action following a ballot, which began today.

Of the 34 GP trainees who have responded so far, 24 said they were going to vote in favour of industrial action.

The ballot – which ends on 18 November – follows an ongoing row between the BMA’s Junior Doctors Committee and the Government, which has threatened to impose a contract on trainees that will see them given far less reward for weekend working and will remove safeguards around safe working hours. 

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt stepped in with a last minute offer yesterday aimed at preventing the ballot, which he claimed would see junior doctors being given an 11% increase to basic pay.

However, the BMA has repeatedly said that it will negotiate with the Government only when Mr Hunt lifts his threat of a contract imposition., while Government claims that only 1% of doctors will receive a pay reduction have been questioned.

Dr Louise Clift, a GP registrar in Gloucestershire, said she would be voting in favour of industrial action, and dismissed claims that the new offer would result in a pay rise,

She said:  ’Jeremy Hunt is completely barking up the wrong tree if he thinks he can pull the wool over our eyes with an ”11% pay rise”. This is nothing more than a pay cut for me and the majority of my junior doctor colleagues.

’If this new contract comes in… I will not be able to afford my mortgage and seriously worry that I will lose my home.’

GPs responding to Pulse’s survey said that excessive workload, unsafe hours and lack of remuneration justifiably called for strike action.

Dr Sally Whale, a GP partner in Ipswich, said she worried about the incentives to go through junior doctor training.

She said: ‘The new contract will have several effects: those currently in training will leave; those entering training will choose the less intense and antisocial rotas; those considering medicine will think again; and Australia, New Zealand and Canada for a start must be rubbing their hands with glee.

‘We need young people to want to be doctors, to enjoy their training, to develop as well rounded individuals who care about society, and feel fulfilled, we will only get that if those currently doing the job feel valued. The NHS has possibly the most demoralised workforce. I have seen it on its knees in the past, but this time I have fears about the underlying intention.’

Emma Humphreys, a GP locum in Waveney, said: ‘What has been expected of juniors was already excessive. Pay hasn’t kept pace with inflation, juniors no longer get subsidised accommodation and the workload is enormous. No other professionals are treated so badly, with such long hours, so much responsibility and remuneration that doesn’t reflect this.’

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, GPC chair, said: ’Junior doctors form the backbone of the NHS, and have our full support in their struggle to get a fair contract that’s safe for patients.

’The current proposals will remove vital protections on safe working patterns, devalue evening and weekend work, and could have a real impact on the quality of patient care.

’The BMA has been clear throughout this process that we want to reach a negotiated agreement with the government. Without the reasonable assurances junior doctors require, the BMA has been left with little option but to continue with plans to ballot members on industrial action. This is not a decision that has been taken lightly, but the government’s refusal to work with junior doctors, and its continued threat to impose an unsafe and unfair contract, has left them with no alternative.’

Announcing the new offer yesterday, Mr Hunt said: ’Our proposals offer better basic pay with increases based on responsibility instead of time served, a shorter working week and improved patient safety. I appeal to the BMA to do the right thing and come back to the table to negotiate for its members.’

The row brought some 20,000 people marching through the streets of London in protest last month.

Survey results in full

[Non-trainees] Would you support junior doctors, including GP trainees, taking the industrial action proposed by the BMA over the junior doctor contract?

Yes: 84% (725)

No: 9% (77)

Don’t know: 7% (64)

Total: 866


[GP trainees only] Are you going to vote in favour of the industrial action proposed by the BMA over the junior doctor contract?

Yes: 71% (24)

No:26% (9)

Don’t know: 3% (1)