The BMA has confirmed that LMCs can lawfully participate in preparations for potential industrial action for GPs, including canvas opinion and express support.
The doctor’s union has issued advice for LMCs on how to participate in potential industrial action, after taking legal advice earlier this year.
Yesterday, the BMA warned the Government that more doctor groups will consider industrial action options following the 6% pay rise announcement, which covers salaried GPs and trainees but not partners.
The BMA document seen by Pulse confirms the rights of LMCs in England to participate in ‘activities relating to potential industrial action’ organised by the union across general practice.
The BMA said that LMCs ‘are entitled to help’ the union prepare for industrial action and ‘can express their support’ to help general practice achieve contract and policy reform.
It pointed out that the current advice does not discuss ‘the timing, type or strategy’ for industrial action and that the GPC will circulate guidance about this ahead of a future ballot.
The union said: ‘The Government has had ample opportunity to remove the need for industrial action by instructing the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England to return to the negotiation table in good faith with meaningful proposals to fix general practice.
‘Much will depend on how ministers, DHSC and NHSE approach negotiations on GMS contract changes for 2024/25 and beyond.’
It said that LMCs can do the following without risk of legal action:
- Consider and discuss the possibility of GPs taking IA;
- Before the BMA has decided to ballot its members, canvas opinion among GPs in their locality to help the BMA ascertain what forms of IA GPs may be prepared to take;
- Organise and host events for GPs to enable official BMA representatives to explain to GPs why the BMA wants its GP members to take IA;
- Express support for IA called for by the BMA; and/or
- Encourage affiliated GPs to support IA that the BMA calls on them to take.
LMCs ‘should not help to organise’ and ‘will not be asked to call for industrial action’ beyond the scope of that specifically called for by the BMA, the union said.
In a recent ‘call to action’, GPC England urged doctors to join the BMA ahead of a potential ballot over industrial action if 2024/25 contract negotiations turn sour.
In April, the committee voted against organising industrial action over this year’s GP contract, backing instead an option for an industrial action ballot should negotiations for the flagship contract for 2024/25 – the first since the end of the five-year deal – not go as they hope.
In a debate about industrial action at the UK LMC Conference in May, some delegates stated independent contractors cannot take industrial action but acting GPC England chair Dr Kieran Sharrock said this was not the case.
The conference also voted to support a motion which backed GPs taking industrial action in a bid to achieve ‘pay restoration’.
Pulse had previously revealed exclusively that BMA GP Committee negotiators told WhatsApp groups GPs have ‘no appetite currently’ for industrial action, and there is ‘zero chance’ of 2023/24 contract negotiations being reopened.
Earlier this week, the chair of the RCGP told MPs that GPs are not showing ‘a particular desire’ to strike or take industrial action over pay.