Large-scale GP resignations are on the cards as crunch time looms for a diminishing number of overworked GPs grappling with soaring patient demand in a cash-strapped NHS.
That’s the view of Doctors in Unite in advance of Saturday’s (30 January) special local medical committees’ (LMCs) conference when more than 400 GPs gather in London ‘to decide what actions are needed to ensure GPs can deliver a safe and sustainable service’.
Doctors in Unite will be supporting the motion that asks the general practice committee of the British Medical Association to investigate expanding the salaried GPs sector as the best way of stopping health secretary Jeremy Hunt imposing detrimental contractual changes on the GP profession.
Dr Jackie Applebee, Unite’s representative on the GPs’ committee of the BMA, said: “The time has come for GPs to put themselves in a position to defend their jobs and the NHS service they provide.
“They are hamstrung as ‘independent contractors’ as the government just imposes changes to their contract. At least, by being a salaried employee under an NHS contract - as the junior doctors have shown - you can take on a government acting against the interests of patient safety against a background of a deteriorating service.”
At present, 60 per cent of the 43,000 GPs in the UK are self-employed contractors which gives them less legal protection in resisting contract changes at a time when there is a crisis in recruiting new GPs and persuading young doctors to become GPs.
Unite also reluctantly backs GPs signing undated resignation letters.
Dr Applebee said: “It is the only way open to conference to show the strength of feeling amongst GPs and to express its exasperation with a government reducing the budget for general practice, rather than facing the message that the NHS needs a funding boost to tackle the list of issues facing GPs and their patients.”
Unite argues that there is evidence that the public would support an increase in income tax and/or national insurance if they were convinced this would be ring-fenced for the NHS and not go towards general government expenditure.
Doctors in Unite chair, Dr Ron Singer, said: “It is true that you have to wait too long for a GP appointment these days. This is now crunch time for the GP profession being confronted with a large hike in workloads, the recruitment crisis in developing the next generation of GPs and the current inability to obtain sufficient locum cover.
“Mass resignations of GPs are on the cards, if the government does not heed the strong messages coming from Saturday’s conference.
“We have one of the lowest doctor-to-patient ratios in the EU. In 2014, the European Commission reported that we had fewer GPs per head than Bulgaria and Estonia.
“We would need an increase of 25 per cent in NHS funding to give the level of services that the EU leaders in health, Germany and France, provide for their populations.
“At present, many are working 11-hour days seeing up to 50 patients daily, with all the accompanying paperwork that entails. It is no wonder that so many GPs are taking early retirement.”
Doctors in Unite has organised a rally to show support to defend and extend the NHS at the end of the GP conference which is being held at the Mermaid conference centre, Puddle Dock, Blackfriars, London EC4V 3DB between 10.30-17.30 on 30 January.
Junior doctors, nurses and NHS activists will gather at 17.15; many of whom will have attended their own joint union Health Campaigns Together conference in Gray’s Inn Road WC1X 8HB earlier in the day.
Notes to editors:
Doctors in Unite, formerly known as the Medical Practitioners Union, is a professional section of Unite in Health which has 100,000 members working across the health service.
For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble in the Unite press office on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940.
- Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.