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GPC prepares to go to war on contract as LMCs lobby for commissioning boycott

Exclusive: LMC leaders are to call on the GPC to lead a boycott of commissioning and other work not directly related to patient care in a last-ditch bid to stop ministers imposing sweeping changes to the GP contract.

A number of LMCs plan to raise the possibility of GPs withdrawing from commissioning work or working to rule at the LMC Secretaries’ Conference this week, while Pulse understands the GPC has already begun internally debating a range of measures short of strike action.

GPC negotiators said legal issues would need to be addressed but refused to rule out ‘widespread non-cooperation with Government policy’.

The BMA has also begun planning a series of roadshows to hear from grassroots GPs in ‘early 2013’.

Last week the Department of Health reiterated its warning that its offer of a 1.5% funding uplift would be taken off the table if the GPC does not agree to the proposed deal, which includes a raft of new QOF work next year and the phasing-out of the MPIG over seven years from 2014.

The publication of the DH’s Statement of Financial Entitlements setting out the details of its offer is expected imminently, after which the GPC has said it will issue further guidance.

Meanwhile, LMC secretaries were planning to use their annual conference on Friday, which will be attended by GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman and held in private, to call for a robust response.

Dr Paul Roblin, secretary of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire LMCs, said negotiators would use the meeting to take the temperature of grass-roots GPs.

‘If things from the working week need to be dropped because of a lack of funding, then commissioning should be first on the list,’ he said. ‘The trick is for us to achieve something that will not become a PR disaster.’

A second LMC was also understood to be due to call for a commissioning boycott, while Dr Nigel Watson, chief executive of Wessex LMCs, warned that if ministers imposed the deal, even the ‘least militant GPs would start saying no to extra work’ that was not directly about providing patient services.

Dr Ravi Mene, secretary of Salford and Trafford LMC, said:  ‘The best way forward for GPs would be to work to rule – to do exactly what is expected of us in our contracts and absolutely nothing more. We have to make our feelings known and I will be raising this.’

A senior GPC member who asked not to be named said the GPC decided at its meeting on 15 November to look at all the legitimate legal options.

‘This could include complete non-engagement with the CCG agenda in order to stop dangerous service rationing and spend more time with patients,’ he said.

‘We will also look at our revalidation work and all the bureaucracy that entails – basically anything that does not involve direct patient care.’

GPC negotiator Dr ChaandNagpaul said the LMCs’ meeting, which he was attending this week, was ‘very well placed to feed back the perspectives of grassroots GPs’. He added: ‘In terms of disengagement from CCGs… if it was seen as the GPC instructing widespread non-cooperation with Government policy, there are legal issues involved. But that is not to say it can’t be done.’

Dr Tom Frewin, a member of Avon LMC, said:  ‘The Government is ignoring fair play and saying sod you, so a boycott of commissioning could be the only thing that might bring them back to the negotiating table.

‘The Government has invested a lot of political capital on commissioning so it could work.’