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BMA conference backs ‘Save our Surgeries’ campaign despite opposition

Doctors have called on the BMA to launch a national campaign to save GP surgeries from closure, in a decisive vote at the union’s annual conference.

A motion calling for the BMA to ‘recommit to a full-blown “Save our Surgeries” campaign’ was carried with well over the two-thirds majority required for extra BMA investment, despite delegates being urged to consider alternatives by the BMA chair.

Dr Gill Beck from Buckinghamshire LMC, who put forward the motion, said: ‘Our surgeries need saving – there are potentially villages and towns which will imminently have no GP service. We’ve got to get on, campaign and save them.’

Chair of BMA council Dr Mark Porter urged conference to take the motion as a reference, so that the next council meeting could take advice from GPC officers about the best way to campaign, ‘rather than pass a one-line motion about a save our surgeries campaign which, to be honest, has no other detail behind it’.  

However, Dr Jackie Applebee from Tower Hamlets LMC argued the BMA should get behind local campaigns such as the Save our Surgeries campaign in east London.

Dr Applebee said: ‘We’ve done this: we’ve involved patients, practice staff, we’ve had marches, involved our MPs and we have won some concessions – small, I agree – and nationwide it would be far better to have a nationally agreed solution. The NHS is struggling, we should have a campaign from the BMA which uses the BMA’s communication and organisation skills and the energy and enthusiasm of those of us who want to campaign.’

GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul backed Dr Applebee’s suggestions. He said: ‘I actually marched in east London with Jackie and others and I really do have to commend the fantastic work they are doing. That sort of grassroots, local campaigning that really connects with communities is a description of something I believe has worked very well and could work well nationally.’

The move comes as Pulse’s Stop Practice Closures Campaign is continuing to raise awareness and support struggling practices.

The rest of the motion – carried in full by an overwhelming majority – also agreed to oppose the ‘imposition’ of new models of primary care under NHS England’s Five Year Forward View plans to reorganise general practice, and called for the BMA to campaign for ‘fair funding for all general practice’ and for doctors of all specialties to support this.

Motion in full

That this meeting accepts that there has been repeated disinvestment in General Practice with increasing numbers of practices now threatened with closure by recent funding changes and:-

i) opposes the imposition of ‘out of hospital providers’ as proposed in the NHS FiveYear Forward View;

ii) urges the BMA to campaign for fair funding for all General Practice;

iii) calls upon all branches of practice to support GPs to regain funding for Primary Care;

iv) calls on the BMA to re-commit to a full blown “Save our Surgeries” campaign.