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Revealed: Leaked BMA WhatsApp messages say ‘zero chance’ of industrial action soon

Revealed: Leaked BMA WhatsApp messages say ‘zero chance’ of industrial action soon

Exclusive GPs have ‘no appetite currently’ for industrial action, and there is ‘zero chance’ of 2023/24 contract negotiations being reopened, BMA GP Committee negotiators have told GP WhatsApp groups in messages obtained by Pulse.

The messages, from GPC England negotiator Dr Richard van Mallaerts, said there is far less support for industrial action from GPs than consultants and junior doctors, and that balloting and failing to reach thresholds of support would leave the profession ‘even more stuffed than we are now’.

In a statement, Dr van Mallaerts said that these leaks ‘serve only to distract from the crucially important work of making clear our huge concerns about the suitability and sustainability of the current GP contact’.

Last week, the GPC voted against organising industrial action over this year’s GP contract during an emergency meeting, deciding instead to hold off while it sees how recently-launched negotiations over a new five-year deal turn out.

After the meeting, the BMA then said in a statement that it was ‘beginning with preparations for an indicative ballot in the coming months’, if the Government ‘fails to negotiate a new contract that is fit for purpose.’

However, in the WhatsApp messages, GPC’s deputy chair Dr Richard van Mallaerts said: ‘To be honest, having spoken to dozens of LMCs in the last month, there is zero chance of getting to the industrial action thresholds of 50% turnout and 50% of all votes wanting industrial action, being successful. There is not the appetite currently.

‘We agreed to work up industrial action with a view to balloting depending on how negotiations are going to 24/25, but retain the option to go earlier. There is zero chance of the 23/24 contract being reopened.

‘If we ballot and fail to reach the thresholds we’re even more stuffed than we are now.’

He also said that ‘the threat of industrial action’ is ‘leverage’ and the BMA need to ‘play a medium to long term game.’

‘This is just the next step,’ he added. ‘There is little to no public support for industrial action by GPs. Far less than for consultants and juniors. The Government would just wait us out. They care about votes and nothing else.’

The messages also accused Pulse of being the ‘Daily Mail’ of the GP press.

In a statement, Dr van Mallaerts said: ‘For what was intended to be a private exchange of views between local colleague GPs, to be leaked to the media in this way is deeply upsetting to me. It is also frustrating when it serves only to distract from the crucially important work of making clear our huge concerns about the suitability and sustainability of the current GP contact – a position worsened by the newly imposed changes. There is, procedurally, no opportunity to renegotiate the current contract until later this year but that does not stop us worrying about the impact it will have on the profession and patient care. The BMA’s GP committee England voted, last week, in favour of balloting for industrial action if our working conditions are not radically improved.

‘Sharing what should have been, and still should be, the contents of private communications comes only days after Pulse published leaked voting results from the GPC England meeting. The meeting agenda always included a Committee vote on a motion which encapsulated the decisions taken within the meeting, this was in no way influenced by the inappropriate leak to Pulse.

‘GPs across the country will be dismayed that a small number of our own profession continue to try to undermine collective action with these leaks. They know that we are stronger when we are united.  My focus is on doing everything I can, against a very challenging environment, to focus Government attention on the fact the GP contract needs significant improvement in order to retain the workforce and protect the quality of patient care.’

During last week’s emergency meeting, GPC members were asked if they wanted to take action on a timeline of either the 2023/24 imposition, or based on the 2024 onwards contract negotiations. Over half (58%) voted in favour of the second option but only 42% backed imminent industrial action.

There was also another motion, supported by 98% of committee members, calling on the Government to ‘agree a contract with GPC England which recognises and funds the increased workload carried out by general practices, and enables practices to provide safe patient care with freedom and trust.’

‘If the Government fails to do this, then this committee will ballot GPs working in England on industrial action,’ the motion added.

Last month, the union gave the Government a list of changes that must be made – ‘at a minimum’ – to the imposed 2023/24 contract to avoid a threat of industrial action by GPs.



Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

Darren Tymens 2 May, 2023 5:47 pm

Richard was expressing a personal opinion in a smallish (40 members, all GPs) private WhatsApp group that was operating on an understanding it was a private safe space to exchange honest, unfiltered opinions, and not to be shared.
(DOI: I am in that group; Richard and I disagree regularly but always respectfully).
It is hard to understand the motivation of the GP who leaked this to Pulse. It seems very cowardly to do it anonymously – perhaps the person would be brave enough to stand up and justify it? They certainly weren’t prepared to offer open and honest criticism to Richard about these comments within the group itself.
Was it
– to personally embarrass Richard?
– to embarrass the GPC Executive?
– to embarrass GPC?
Whatever the motivation, the leak can only damage the profession, disempower our negotiating team, and empower the government, DOH and NHSE. By publishing it both Pulse and the leaker have caused the profession significant harm.

Richard Greenway 2 May, 2023 5:55 pm

It looks like many Agenda for Change staff will settle for 5%, National Minimum wage is up by 9.7% this year.

Whether we go for industrial action or not -GP partners need apay rise for their workforce to be funded.
If hospital nurses get 5% and GP nurse get 2.1% or less how will we recruit /retain?
Once staff salaries are lifted, alsoemployers NI and Superann go up too -also unfunded.
This isn’t going to help GP partners to survive. What’s the plan?

Daryl Mullen 2 May, 2023 6:32 pm

Frankly given what the GPC has achieved most GPs are voting with their feet ie leaving.
You lot need to up your game

James Bissett 2 May, 2023 7:09 pm

Dr Van Mallaerts should remember the golden rule of the Internet What’s posted on the Internet stays on the nternet. If you state something be prepared to justify it
P S Don’t say something that makes you look naive and purile

David Jenner 2 May, 2023 7:30 pm

So one possibility to bring influence on the government remains without any need for a ballot on industrial action , that is mass resignation from the PCN DES
Although GPC effectively missed this window by meeting so late in April , another 30 day window has been opened by a change to the PCN DES over access plans ( delayed to allow you to accommodate the yet to be published NHS recovery plan but no doubt no sign of the workforce plan!)
As most NHS policy including Access plans revolve around the PCN DES , mass resignation would be a very powerful tool to use if you dare!
But as the SAS motto says “ who dares wins”
How you can say there is no appetite for industrial action without re- running the indicative ballot on certain types of industrial action as in autumn 2021 I really don’t know .
And does not GPC still have an open mandate from 2022 LMC conference to remove practices from PCNs by 2023 ?

SUBHASH BHATT 2 May, 2023 7:58 pm

There will be no industrial action or mass resignations. There no histry of action like this in last 40+ years.

John Graham Munro 2 May, 2023 8:19 pm

Told you so———-G.Ps on strike?——-and the band played ”Believe it if you like”

C B 2 May, 2023 11:23 pm

Lets face it, its true, the reason why GPs have no appetite for industrial action is because we already know we will have NO support from the public and get a load of sarcastic comments regarding how a GP strike will not make any difference as they don’t see patients anyway or similar derogatory comments. All we want to do is leave or retire but striking will only lead to more abuse.

Douglas Callow 2 May, 2023 11:39 pm

amateurish to conduct business via whats app
You will rarely win anything meaningful if you are this unfocused and defeatist

Turn out The Lights 3 May, 2023 8:25 am

Without leadership we will continue what we are doing,time to leave the sinking ship my fellow rats.

gregory rose 3 May, 2023 10:28 am

Just so everyone knows, don’t use these comments to criticise how Pulse is handling these situations and how that has impact. they have already deleted my comment in this regard. Another place you aren’t allowed challenge it seems.

Finola ONeill 3 May, 2023 11:56 am

For what it’s worth I don’t think we need to strike or that it’ll achieve anything.
I think keeping our heads down and waiting it out which is what we are doing is the right thing. Effectively sort of working to rule, quiet quitting, whatever you want to call it.
I just think a more effective media campaign sticking to the one repetitive point that by doing 90% of consultations for 8-9% of budget, the most cost effective and the backbone of work, the only way to try and improve the NHS, and get those waiting times down that Rishi is after, is by funding general practice properly.
Then the public can watch things sink and vote in another government at the next election or we will all need to retire, find alternative work or whatever. Because it ain’t sustainable.
But we need a clear media campaign indicating it is now down the to the government and the great British public.
They will get what they deserve and what they ask or fight for.
They need to know it. No holding back in my opinion.

Turn out The Lights 3 May, 2023 12:10 pm

Spot on Fiona time for reality orientation for the UK and it obsession with the NHS.

Not on your Nelly 3 May, 2023 12:48 pm

Sadly, doing nothing is why we are in the position we are in. If we carry on doing nothing as suggested, we will just carry on having no impact and the government will continue to run rings around the BMA and GPC. Be more like the junior doctors wing rather than the GPC.

Dave Haddock 3 May, 2023 7:05 pm

The BMA have consistently undermined GP by refusing to even consider working outside the NHS.
What GP needs is a plausible plan for large numbers of GPs to leave the NHS as the dentists have done but continue to earn a living – Denplan for doctors.
Congratulations to Pulse for publishing – the BMA are both useless and devious.

Dave Haddock 3 May, 2023 7:19 pm

ps. Labour hate GPs; overpaid, over-priviliged elitist skivers as seen from the Left.

Andrew Jackson 3 May, 2023 7:34 pm

Dear BMA,
do we have to accept that a GP can expect their job to get worse every year they progress through their career?
If you are unable to change this path then please tell
us honestly so we make individual not collective decisions on our futures.
a GP of 25 years

Andrew Fripp 5 May, 2023 12:15 am

GPs need to stop thinking it is their job to keep patients happy. We need to deliver what we are contracted to deliver and when patients are disappointed with what they get, we must politely advise them that we are doing our best with what we have been given and that they need to take their complaints to the ballot box.

If we go on strike, it must be to campaign for changes that reduce our stress levels and improve patient care – both of which could be improved with adequate funding to attract and retain more GPs – how could the public not support that?

Guy Wilkinson 5 May, 2023 1:02 pm

GPC and the BMA as a whole need to sort their sh*t out, stop the virtue signalling of being the saviours of the NHS. Start acting like a union. The whatsapp sharing has given a valuable insight into the supine nature of their industrial relations attitudes and now they come across as whingers. Well done Jamie/Pulse.

GP is going the way of dentistry.

GPC need to develop a clear plan B business template for private / self insured work outside of the NHS, use this as alongside undated resignations, work to rule and a media campaign the force a hugely different contract – perhaps with a greater fee per activity emphasis.

Joe Josephus 8 May, 2023 12:23 pm

“To be honest, having spoken to dozens of LMCs in the last month, there is zero chance of getting to the industrial action thresholds”
How on earth do the LMCs know? My LMC hasn’t even bothered to ask me!!!

Richard Greenway 8 May, 2023 2:38 pm

Agreed Joe -perhaps we need a proper indicative ballot of GPs by the GPC/ BMA
We need to consider our options -mass contract handback may be exactly what the government wants.
What about withdrawal of a service that GP currently provides- e.g. routine imms, cervical screening -for a bit.
This is what the hospitals have done, creating waiting lists.