GPs will debate whether the profession should resign from the NHS en masse at the Pulse Live conference tomorrow.
The debate, taking place in Liverpool, will see delegates voting on the question ‘Is it time for all GPs to resign from their NHS contracts?’, and will involve chair of the Family Doctor Association Dr Peter Swinyard and Dr Zoe Norris, media lead for GP Survival.
The panel will be debating whether it is time for GPs to take the major step in response to health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s ‘new deal’, in which he pushed for GPs to offer seven-day access.
It also comes as junior doctors are going to be balloted by the BMA on whether to take industrial action in response to the Government imposing a contract that will see Saturday working reclassified as ‘sociable’ hours.
In a preview to the debate, Dr John Cosgrove, a GP in Birmingham, argued that the message about GPs’ workload is not getting through to ministers, as evidenced by the ‘new deal’.
He added: ‘Experience tells us the only effective negotiating tool to bring about real change is a credible threat of mass GP resignation. Holding undated letters of resignation enabled the BMA to negotiate the 2004 GP contract, and the time has now come for a similar move.
‘This has the potential to persuade the Government to resource general practice adequately and to support us in defining our remit and that of the NHS.’
Dr Roger Henderson, a GP in Shropshire who will also be on the panel, says that at first glance, resigning en masse ‘may seem like a no brainer’.
However, he adds that to make primary care work, ‘we have to be inside the NHS tent talking to ministers’.
He says: ‘If we fire our one and only negotiating bullet – the one marked ”Stuff this” – from our elephant gun then, yes, there will be a lot of noise, we will briefly feel better and it will shake up the media and politicians.
‘But once the shock and awe has settled, the NHS will still be there, patients with no one to trust but their GP will still need to be seen, long-term care in the community will not have suddenly disappeared and, perhaps most importantly, we will have a divided profession since the one thing we can all probably agree on is that we’ll never get 100% of GPs signing resignation letters.’