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GPs should work weekend to clear industrial action backlog, says Lansley

GPs who are taking industrial action on Thursday should work on the following weekend to clear a backlog of 1.25 million cancelled appointments, health secretary Andrew Lansley has told the BMA.

In his second letter to the trade union, Mr Lansley called on doctors to abandon plans for industrial action, but if they did take action to open on the following Saturday.

He wrote: ‘As GPs are self-employed, I would also ask your members who are GPs that they consider working on Saturday 23 June to clear the backlog of appointments they will have created by their action on 21 June,' Mr Lansley wrote.

‘As you know, the action GPs will take could potentially displace up to 1.25m appointment bookings in primary care into the days and weeks following your strike – including appointments for some 140,000 children.'

‘As GPs understand better than anyone, today's routine appointments can become tomorrow's emergencies.

Dr Hamish Meldrum, BMA chair, said in his response to the health secretary: ‘Tens of thousands of grassroots doctors feel so strongly that the changes to their pension scheme are unfair and unnecessary that they have decided to take industrial action – the first time in almost 40 years.

‘Doctors know the industrial action they take cannot be the same industrial action taken by any other work force. This is why doctors will be in their usual workplaces and patient safety remains their top priority.'

A BMA spokeswoman told the Guardian newspaper that GPs surgeries would not need to open next Saturday. ‘Routine, non-urgent GP appointments will resume the following day. Some surgeries will be open as usual on Saturday, but we do not anticipate the need for additional clinics.'