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GP leaders roll back on industrial action ballot

The BMA is unlikely to pursue industrial action in the form of mass list closures any time soon, the chair of its GP Committee has indicated today.

Speaking at the English LMCs Conference in London, Dr Richard Vautrey told delegates that the BMA are ‘not telling practices to close their lists, they’re doing it now’.

The GPC surveyed the profession earlier this year, finding 54% of practices would be willing to close their lists temporarily, while 44% said they would be willing to close lists permanently.

The survey followed a motion at the UK LMCs Conference in Edinburgh in May, which ‘demand[ed] that GPC ballot GPs as to whether they would be prepared to collectively close their lists in response to this crisis [in general practice’.

Pulse reported in September that the GPC meeting next week would decide whether to do a full ballot of practices on taking this form of industrial action.

Dr Vautrey said that it would be in the power of the GPC to take action.

However, when asked at conference what steps are being taken on industrial action, he said that the GPC intends to use the survey results to pressure Government, but ‘we’re not telling practices to close their lists’.

He said: ‘One of the first things we did [following the survey] was convince the Daily Mail that there was a real crisis in general practice. We had front page headline news, recognising the pressures, not blaming GPs for a change.

‘We have consistently used the results from the ballot. We do recognise that it is not just practices in Folkestone struggling, it is practices all across the country.

‘We’re not telling practices to close their lists, they’re doing it now because they have a conscious need to provide safe services to their patients and a need for GPs themselves to be safe in the context of where they are working.’

He added that the BMA will continue to support practices who found themselves in the situation where they feel they have to close lists.

However, he told Pulse in September that ‘all options are on the table’, and this will be discussed at the November meeting of the GPC.

Speaking to Pulse today, he said: This is something that GPC England, who are meeting next week, may discuss. We said we will wait and see what happens at the LMCs Conference.

‘But I think the intention is to use the information we have from the survey in the publications we are producing at the moment.’

Dr Jackie Applebee, who first proposed the motion on industrial action, told Pulse: ’I think it is important to use it as a negotiating tool, it’s a really strong tool. I’m pleased that is what they are doing. 

’I don’t think I expected to hear any more today because I think if all the cards are on the table, you reveal your hand.

 ’Industrial action is possible in the future – it has not been ruled in or out. I thought the debate about Capita – and the announcement about the timeline – is important, and I think it is important to put deadlines on thse things.’