NHS England assurances draw sceptical response amid ca...

NHS England assurances draw sceptical response amid calls for consultative ballot of GPs

31 August 2016

Doctors in Unite (DiU), formerly the Medical Practitioners Union (MPU) expressed dismay today (Wednesday 31 August) over the General Practitioners Committee (GPC) decision not to hold a consultative ballot of GPs on industrial action, despite the move receiving overwhelming backing at May’s Local Medical Committee (LMC) conference.

The call to consult GPs on whether they would be prepared to take different forms of industrial action not in breach of their contracts comes as GPs become increasingly overwhelmed with their workload which in turn is hitting patient care. 

More than 9 in 10 (see notes) GPs say that their workload has negatively impacted on the quality of care given to patients, while at the same time Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) aimed at making swingeing ‘savings’ for the NHS are being drawn up.

Assurances given by NHS England to work on proposals in the GPC’s ‘Urgent Prescription for General Practice’, which prompted last week’s GPC decision not to hold a consultative ballot, have drawn a sceptical response from DiU. 

Dr Jackie Applebee, one of DiU’s two representatives on the GPC said: “How can GPC leaders or anyone else think that GPs will get anything meaningful amidst the massive NHS cuts?

“The STPs aim to make swingeing ‘savings’ throughout England. There are explicit plans to close hospitals, cut bed numbers and ‘review’ the distribution of GP surgeries.” 

Dr Applebee, who proposed the motion for a consultative ballot at the LMC conference (see notes for text) added: “Cuts to the NHS of this size are unprecedented. There is simply a shortage of funding brought about by our politicians. NHS England’s ‘GP Forward View’ has not delivered any practical help to surgeries, which are closing right now. 

“Warm words from NHS England are not enough to stop the collapse of General Practice. We need emergency measures immediately and I cannot see this materialising in the world of STPs.

“The overwhelming vote in favour of a consultative ballot at the LMC conference shows the strength of feeling amongst LMC delegates from all over the country.  No one wants to take industrial action, but if not now when? How bad does it have to get? The vote showed that GPs have had enough of talking and want to be consulted on action.”

Dr Ron Singer, retiring president of DiU and former GP, commented: “DiU is confident that there are ways of taking industrial action which would not prompt a breach of contract. 

“GPs are overwhelmed by their workload with more than nine in ten saying that their workload has negatively impacted on the quality of care given to patients.

“A basket of measures that GPs can choose from to try to reduce their workload, as suggested in the BMA document “Responsive, Safe and Sustainable: Our Urgent Prescription for General Practice”, is helpful but leaves the onus on individual practices. A single coordinated act, in the interests of patient safety would be much more effective”.

Dr Applebee will call on GPC at the very least to demand NHS England commits to a very tight, stated deadline, that will trigger a ballot if missed.


For further information please contact Unite head of media and campaigns Alex Flynn on 020 3371 2066 or 07967 665869.

Notes to editors

  • Doctors in Unite is part of Unite, 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.
  • According to the BMA’s national survey of GPs, The Future of General Practice 2015 9 in 10 GPs say that their workload has negatively impacted on the quality of care given to patients
  • Text of the motion proposed by Dr Jackie Applebee which was overwhelmingly backed at May’s LMC Conference is as follows:
That conference does not accept the General Practice Forward View is an adequate response to the GPCs statement of need within the BMAs Urgent Prescription for General Practice, and considering this to be sufficient grounds for a trade dispute, unless the Government agrees to accept the Urgent Prescription for General Practice within three months of this conference, the GPC should ask the BMA to:
  1. Ballot the profession on their willingness to sign undated resignations.
  2. Ballot the profession on their willingness to take industrial action.
  3. Ballot the profession as to what forms of industrial action they are prepared to take.
  4. Produce a report to practices on the option for taking industrial a (iv)ction that doesn’t breach their contracts.