Exclusive The BMA has hired a law firm to investigate leaks to the press from its GP Committee, Pulse has learned.
Pulse understands that specialist employment lawyers Fox & Partners have been appointed to conduct investigations.
Pulse also understands that this action was taken following articles in the Daily Telegraph – which claimed that the GPC had been taken over by the ‘Militant Left’ – and the BMJ about the departure of former GPC chair, Dr Richard Vautrey.
The law firm has been contacting individual members of the committee about the leaks to ascertain where they are coming from, Pulse has found out.
Responding to Pulse questioning, a BMA spokesperson said: ‘Concerns have been raised after a series of disclosures to the media of confidential information from GPC England.
‘We have commissioned an external, independent firm to look into the matter.’
Pulse also approached Fox & Partners for comment.
A spokesperson for grassroots organisation GP Survival told Pulse that the measures are ‘heavy-handed’ and make the GPC seem ‘autocratic’ and as though it does not ‘wish to act on the motions passed and the instructions from the conference of LMCs’.
They said: ‘Is this really a matter for calling in a legal team? It seems quite heavy-handed.
‘From the outside, it would look as if there is a self-preserving, autocratic layer at the top who don’t wish to take instructions from those they wish to represent.’
They added: ‘There are likely to be people within GPC who feel it is appropriate to keep ordinary GPs informed on what’s happening and really the only way to do that is via the media.
‘GPC tends not to feed back particularly well to the ordinary GPs what’s going on and the media obviously have an interest in doing that.’
Dr Sieber revealed she had been referred under the BMA’s code of conduct for sharing a critical report on the latest GPC meeting that said there had been no progress on industrial action.
In an open resignation letter, Dr Sieber said that the BMA’s resolution process for complaints about conduct breaches ‘has been weaponised as a way of avoiding accountability or improving through learning, and to stifle debate and discourage dissent’.
Pulse understands that referrals under the BMA code of conduct are also referred to independent law firms for investigation.
It said at the time: ‘Investigations are carried out independently of the BMA, by an external law firm, and are also confidential, and therefore we will not be able to say any more at this stage.’
GP Survival called for the GPC to uphold the transparency mandate given to it at November’s England LMC Conference, when GP leaders demanded greater ‘transparency’ from GPC England – including the publication of ‘brief minutes’ from meetings and ‘voting records’ of members.
Although the vote took place during a section of the conference that was ‘closed’ to the public for the first time, Pulse understands it was passed with a strong majority.
Meanwhile, the BMA has said it is not seeking to renegotiate the current five-year GP contract, outside of the usual annual amendments, following a statement that suggested this might be the case.
LMCs Conference motion on GPC England transparency
AGENDA COMMITTEE TO BE PROPOSED BY GATESHEAD AND SOUTH TYNESIDE: That conference is concerned about an apparent loss of connection between grassroots GPs and their elected representatives on GPC England and:
(i) requires that brief minutes be made available to constituents of GPC England meetings
(ii) calls for a standing item on the conference agenda where GPC England reports successes and failures of negotiation and seeks conference’s views on a way forward
(iii) demands that the voting records of GPC England members from this point onwards be made available to constituents to enhance transparency
(iv) requires a review of the function of GPC England, with a recommendation that, if needs be, professional negotiators are engaged for future negotiations, paid for by GPDF.