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GPs approve ‘nuclear deterrent’ of mass resignation at emergency conference

GP leaders have moved a step closer to a potential mass resignation should the Government fail to respond to ongoing pressures facing general practice.

At today’s Special LMC Conference, delegates voted overwhelmingly to carry a motion proposing that ‘the GPC should canvass GPs on their willingness to submit undated resignations’ unless ’negotiations with government for a rescue package for general practice’ are ’concluded successfully within six months’.

But to the dismay of some GPs, the motion was watered down ahead of the debate, having originally suggested the GPC go ahead and request undated resignations at the six-month deadline, rather than just canvassing.

The motion, in three parts, called on the GPC to identify what other actions GPs could undertake without breaching their contracts, and to ballot GPs on what services practices could stop providing in order to reduce workload and ensure ‘safe and sustainable care’ for patients.

A Pulse survey of more that 900 GPs carried out at the end of last year revealed that half (49%) of GPs support mass resignation from the NHS in protest at the current state of general practice.

Today’s special conference  – the first one called since 2003 – looked specifically at ‘what actions are needed to ensure GPs can deliver a safe and sustainable service’ amid concerns over workforce, workload and the defunding of general practice.

The Department of Health has promised a package of ’substantial funding and support’ as part of a big announcement due next month. Earlier this week, NHS England’s chief executive Simon Stevens said this ‘wide-ranging’ package would include ’measures on workforce, workload and service redesign’.

Dr Katie Bramall-Stainer, a GP in Hertfordhsire, told delegates: ’[This motion] allows time to deploy our nuclear deterrent without actually letting it off. This is the headline to launch the campaign. Hold your noses and vote yes. Send a lightning bolt to NHS England.

’It is not safe, and it is not fair – and it is not just for juniors – because this is a state of emergency. So, conference, if not now, when?’

GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said he was ‘very happy’ to support the motion because GPs have to do ‘everything we can’ to support general practice.

Dr Anthony O’Brien from Devon LMC said: ‘There is no point canvassing unless you think it is likely you are going to get a consensus. I think this is highly unlikely but let’s suspend our disbelief for a moment, let’s explore it. Mass GP action would need mass GP support.

’Mass support only comes with good, motivating publicity, so if the BMA and GPC truly believe they have a polished public relations machine that could convince GPs to involve themselves in mass action… in the future, well that would be fantastic.

’But that begs the question, what are these PR wizards doing at the moment? They are certainly not using their amazing skills very successfully to get the plight of general practice in newspapers.’

The motion in full

That conference instructs GPC that should negotiations with government for a rescue package for general practice not be concluded successfully within 6 months of the end of this conference:

(i) actions that GPs can undertake without breaching their contracts must be identified to the profession

(ii) a ballot of GPs should be considered regarding what work/services must cease to reduce the workload to ensure safe and sustainable care for patients

(iii) the GPC should canvass GPs on their willingness to to submit undated resignations

Source: BMA