The GP Committee for England has urged doctors to join the BMA ahead of a potential ballot over industrial action if 2024/25 contract negotiations turn sour.
It also reminded existing members to ensure their details are up to date, so that they will be eligible to vote.
As previously reported, an emergency meeting of the GPC at the end of last month voted to abandon any plans to ballot the profession over industrial action in protest over imposed contractual changes for this year.
Instead, GPC members backed an option for an industrial action ballot should negotiations for the flagship contract for 2024/25 – the first since the end of the five-year deal – not go as they hope.
In a press release after the emergency meeting, the BMA indicated that this may be only an ‘indicative’ rather than a binding ballot, however, and it has not clarified the position to Pulse.
In an update to members yesterday, GPCE deputy chair Dr David Wrigley urged doctors to prepare for the ballot by ensuring their details were up to date.
He added: ‘Current working conditions are already running GPs and practice staff into the ground, and these contract changes threaten the safety of our patients.
‘We are simply asking for a contract that preserves general practice in the long term and keeps patients safe.
‘If the Government is unwilling to change the situation, balloting will be our only remaining option to save general practice from collapse. We are therefore asking you to join us as we prepare for potential industrial action.’
The GPC is in the early stages of starting negotiations for next year’s contract, and met with primary care minister Neil O’Brien last week to ‘discuss the result of the GPs committee England emergency meeting and the GP recovery plan ahead of its publication’.
‘During the meeting, we explained what the results of the ballot meant in terms of industrial action, the depth of feeling amongst GPs regarding the imposition of the current contract, and what must happen to address those concerns and restore GPs’ faith in the Government,’ Dr Wrigley said.
‘The minister acknowledged our concerns and agreed to further meetings to discuss these issues, including funding, QOF, workforce and morale.’
Commenting on the recovery plan, which was published on Tuesday, Dr Wrigley added that ‘there doesn’t seem to be much in the plan about how we stop GPs leaving the profession, or how we retain the staff that we already have’.
He said the GPC also made this point to NHS England national director for primary care Amanda Doyle in a meeting.
‘We highlighted our concerns about a lack of direct investment in practices to address patient outcomes and improve recruitment and retention but did agree that some aspects, including improvements to the primary-secondary care interface, to reduce pressures on general practice had the potential to be beneficial,’ he said.
In a leaked WhatsApp message obtained by Pulse last week, GPCE negotiator Dr Richard van Mallaerts candidly explained the rationale behind why threats of industrial action over this year’s contract were lifted.