The BMA has launched a ‘get out the vote’ campaign and published detailed guidance setting out what GPs will be asked to do if the profession votes in favour of industrial action in the forthcoming pensions ballot.
Roadshows to discuss the industrial action begin next week, with the ballot itself due to be held from 14 May to 29 May. BMA Council will then meet on 30 May to discuss what action to take.
The guidance published today confirms that GPs will be asked to postpone routine appointments on the day of action.
It advises practices: ‘You would not undertake work that could be safely postponed. You should ensure that the practice’s action and the arrangements in place are well publicised to patients using posters, leaflets and the practice website.’
The BMA has distributed three thousand packs containing posters, stickers and a pocket guide to the action across the UK, with further materials online.
The ballot will ask two questions – whether doctors are willing to take part in industrial action short of a strike, and whether they are willing to take part in a strike – and the BMA is urging members to vote ‘yes’ to both questions, although it has ruled out taking full strike action.
“This area of the law in relation to doctors is complex and untested and a ‘yes/yes’ to both questions will ensure maximum legal protection for the action the BMA is proposing,’ the BMA said.
Detailed guidance for GPs published today also advises that in the event of a vote for industrial action:
– Practices must reach an agreement on operational issues if not all partners wish to participate in industrial action
– GPs will be able to ask reception staff to operate a different system for booking appointments, and salaried GPs and locums not to undertake routine appointments – but any request for staff to change their duties must not affect their pay
– GPs will still be responsible for providing urgent and emergency clinical care, and must also deal with urgent administration, such as reviewing test results and acting on abnormal results
– Practices should cooperate with primary care organisations who are planning for the day of action in advance
– GPs not required for urgent and emergency care will be ‘free to pass the time as they please’, but the BMA ‘strongly recommends doing something which is a positive use of time, supporting colleagues or engaging in any planned activities to raise awareness of this dispute’
BMA chair Dr Hamish Meldrum said: ‘This is an historic moment for doctors. We are seeking a mandate to take industrial action for the first time since 1975, to send a clear message to government that their changes are unnecessary and that a fairer way forward should be found. We would not be taking this step if we thought there was any other option.
‘We understand that this is a difficult decision for many doctors, but if they are willing to take the action we propose, they should vote ‘yes/yes’ in the ballot. The most important thing, however, is that members vote, whatever their views.’