GPs will consider “mass resignation” if government ignores crisis

BMJ 2016; 352 doi: (Published 02 February 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;352:i646
  1. Matthew Limb
  1. 1London

GPs have threatened to consider mass resignations from NHS contracts to make sure that the government delivers a “rescue package” for general practice.

The BMA’s General Practitioners Committee will ask GPs’ views about submitting undated resignations if a bailout plan isn’t proposed within six months.

The move was supported by local medical committee (LMC) representatives after a debate at a special BMA conference in London on 30 January.

GPs could also be balloted on the work they would stop doing—to reduce workload and ensure safe and sustainable care—under a motion approved by the conference.

The General Practitioners Committee would also explore actions GPs could undertake without breaching their contracts.

James Murphy, of Buckinghamshire LMC, who proposed the motion, said that the profession needed to take action as hope was “fading fast” for general practice.

He said, “It feels like we are stuck on a permanent warlike footing, lurching from crisis to crisis with only sticking plaster solutions. I feel we are fighting for our very survival.” He said that the motion would give BMA negotiators “the arsenal it needs to take on the battles ahead.”

Naomi Beer, representing London Tower Hamlets LMC, agreed that the threat to canvass opinion on resignations would force the government and NHS England to take notice.

“We have to get the message through that we will not continue to work within an unsafe system created by others but where we take all the responsibility for failure,” she said. “We are at a point where there is nothing to lose because they are killing us anyway. Threatening to resign is not giving up . . . it is saying we will not be party to this destruction anymore.”

Anthony O’Brien, from Devon LMC, spoke against the motion. He warned that canvassing views on resignations would be “pointless” because there was very little chance of securing consensus. “We are here to discuss solutions. Mass unsigned resignations is not one. It won’t work, you won’t get people to sign up to it,” he said.

O’Brien argued that “financial investment and a decent, effective, prolonged media campaign” to alert people to the crisis in general practice was a better option.

The conference heard concerns that the motion put to it had been “watered down” from an earlier commitment to “request” undated resignations instead of canvassing opinions about them.

Katie Bramall-Stainer, a Hertfordshire GP, said that the amended motion gave time to “deploy our nuclear deterrent without actually letting it off.” She said that the pressures on GPs were intolerable. “This isn’t just about patients, it is about our physical and mental health, it is about the impact on our families. This is about our lives. We must start to protect ourselves and each other.”

Chaand Nagpaul, who chairs the General Practitioners Committee, said that he was happy to support the motion. “Let’s all collectively do everything we can to safeguard our lives and the care we give to our patients,” he said.


Cite this as: BMJ 2016;352:i646

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