Exclusive Half of GPs think that the GPC has done a poor job in negotiations with the Government over the GP contract, but the majority would support the union if it pushed for a boycott of commissioning, a Pulse survey has found.
The snapshot poll of 226 GPs found 51% believe the GPC has done a poor or very poor job in representing the profession in negotiations on the 2013/14 GP contract. Only 14% thought it had done a good or very good job, while 35% said it had done a fair job.
The results of the poll put the GPC leadership in a difficult position as it prepares to consult the profession on the planned changes in a series of roadshows starting this month.
Asked what action the GPC should take, 52% said they would support a call from the GPC to boycott commissioning, while more than a third (36%) thought the GPC should be collecting undated letters of resignation from GPs.
A clear majority of GPs (74%) said they would support a publicity campaign informing the public about the damage the contract imposition could cause.
But fewer than one-in-five GPs (18%) said they would support a ballot on strike action, reflecting the disappointing turnout in the ‘day of action’ over pensions last summer that saw just one in ten GPs actively taking part.
Dr Grant Ingrams, a GP in Coventry and a former GPC member, said the GPC had allowed itself to be ‘outmanouvered’.
He said: ‘The GPC should have been engaging with the press regarding the ongoing obvious agenda to undermine general practice to convert it from a personalised service to a faceless ‘Tesco-ised’ impersonal service which suits the relatively well middle classes and not those with the highest health needs.’
But another respondent, Dr Josef Kuriacose, a GP in Northern Ireland, said: ‘If we do not back the GPC, we cannot complain. We have to have teeth, be prepared to use it and take our chances in a different world.’
GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey said the opinions expressed in the survey were ‘understandable’.
He said: ‘Whenever you are in a position of imposition you would anticipate the profession to have hoped it would be in a different place.’
‘It is understandable why people are so angry. I think the key is to not shoot the messenger and direct their anger towards their Government, the ones who are not prepared to negotiate in a reasonable way.’
But Dr Vautrey said that figures did not prove there was sufficient support for a boycott of commissioning.
He said: ‘You only need for 5% to 10% of GPs to be part of CCG activity for it to be effective and go ahead. In fact we would need an overwhelming boycott of commissioning in order for it to have any effect at all.’
‘I think what is much more likely is that GPs will find that with the increase in workload in their practices, GPs will find it much more difficult to [find time] to take part in CCG meetings and activity. The knock-on effect will speak for itself.’
This story was updated to include rounded survey percentages.
How good a job do you believe the GPC has done in representing the profession in negotiations on the GP contract this year?
Good or very good: 14%
Poor or very poor: 51%
Which of the following steps would you support the GPC taking in response to the proposed contract changes?
Undertaking a publicity campaign to explain potential damage to practices: 74%
Calling for a GP boycott of commissioning: 52%
Collecting undated letters of resignation: 36%
Holding a ballot on a strike: 18%
Holding a ballot on industrial action short of a strike: 23%
Total GP respondents: 226