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GPs ‘should become more militant’ – but not resign contracts

GP negotiators should be able to take a more militant stance in negotiations with the Government, before balloting on mass GP resignations from their NHS contracts, a Pulse Live GP panel has said.

The GP leaders, speaking at the keynote discussion at Pulse Live Liverpool today, said that the GPC is working with ‘both hands tied behind their backs’ due to BMA structures and advocated an independent GP negotiating body that would have more freedom to act in the professions’ interests.

A straw poll of delegates at the conference found that only around 20% thought GPs should resign from the NHS en masse, with 40% saying opposing it after hearing of the potential harm to patients and the political consequences of dividing the profession.

Speaking against the proposal, Family Doctor Association chair Dr Peter Swinyard said that the GPC is doing a good job, but they are limited by the wider BMA. 

He said: ‘The main reason I say no to resignation en masse is that our negotiators are working with both hands tied behind their backs. I have the highest regard for [GPC chair] Dr Chaand Nagpaul and his team, they’re brilliant. But they’re working within the BMA.

‘We need to stay with what we have, imperfect though it is. [But] we need a strong, GP-only, trade union which is not tied down by the needs of the other crafts in medicine. And we need a group of GPs prepared to take action.’

GP and media medic Dr Roger Henderson, argued that mass resignation should be a last resort.

He told delegates: ‘I do not want to have that conversation with my Mrs Trellises, saying “today I’m a GP, tomorrow I’m not. You can see me, but it’ll cost you £100… That’s not my way of doing general practice.’

Instead, he advocated a ’militant work-to-rule’, which would involve a wealth of non-GMS work being halted, including only doing palliative care visits, bouncing back secondary care work, and ‘bankrupting your CCG if need be.’

Dr Zoe Norris, spokesperson for the campaign group GP Survival, told delegates that the threat of resignation was what was required to bring the Government to negotiations, and was assured that ministers ‘would blink first’.

She added: ’The only way we’ll succeed is by standing together on this, and they will blink first if we do. The NHS cannot run without GPs, whatever they think.