GPs have voted in favour of industrial action over a NHS contract that would force them to offer appointments on Saturdays and up until 8pm on weekdays.
Members of the British Medical Association (BMA) have today asked their union to prepare for opposition to the contract including up to taking industrial action.
It comes a day after doctors voted for their union to lobby ministers for a 30 per cent pay hike over the next five years in compensation for ‘millions’ of lost earnings since 2008.
The vote specifically called for the BMA to act on a survey last year in which 80 per cent of GPs voted in favour of some form of industrial action, but only 35 per cent actually voted.
Dr Jacqueline Applebee, who also chairs a doctors group in the far left Labour linked union Unite, proposed today’s motion and urged her fellow BMA members to follow in the footsteps of rail union RMT who brought the nation to standstill last week.
‘I know some of you will be worried about industrial action, but how much more can we take,’ she said.
‘We should take our lead from the RMT who have quite rightly said enough is enough.
‘Let’s channel our inner Mick Lynch, please support this motion.’
But the BMA has said the part of motion calling for industrial action is effectively ‘redundant’ as too few GPs responded to the 2021 survey for the union to take action on it.
Dr Jacqueline Applebee who brought the motion to the BMA’s annual meeting today urged members to follow in footsteps of rail workers disruptive industrial action last week’s and ‘channel their inner Mick Lynch’
Mick Lynch is the general secretary of National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) the union behind disruptive rail strikes that brought the nation to a standstill last week (Mr Lynch pictured at a rally during strike action last week)
While the motion for potential industrial action was carried the BMA’s chair of general practice committee in England Dr Farah Jameel warned members that because turnout was so low in a 2021 poll in support of industrial action the union could not act on it
The union’s chair of general practice committee in England, Dr Farah Jameel, told members at the BMA’s annual meeting in Brighton today last year’s ballot was a ‘glorified survey’ and therefore could not form the basis of industrial action.
‘The indicative ballot was just that it was not a formal ballot,’ she said.
‘What it told us is that the majority of the profession did not vote, so we could not act on those results.
‘Let’s call it a “glorified survey”.’
But Dr Applebee said in her closing remarks that doctors shouldn’t shy away from the prospect of taking industrial action.
‘To those of you nervous about industrial action the landscape is changing,’ she said.
‘Even the barristers were on strike last night.
‘We are heading for oblivion if we don’t have the courage to fight for ourselves.’
Her argument won over the BMA members with 57 per cent voting in favour of the union acting on the 2021 poll and opposing the new contract, including taking industrial action ‘if necessary’.
NHS England has asked family doctors, who earn an average of £100,000 per year, to offer face-to-face appointments from 9am to 5pm on Saturdays, and 9am to 8pm on weekdays by October.
The new NHS England contract means each local hub of GP surgeries, known as Primary Care Networks, must offer a full service to patients during the extended hours, with access to nurses, pharmacists and physiotherapists.
The hope is that the increased appointments will boost the number of people able to see their family doctor face to face.
Bu the contract already prompted opposition from GPs with BMA members voting in favour of industrial action last November amid an ongoing row with Government over a lack of face-to-face appointments.
In the poll eight in 10 doctors said they would be happy not to provide data on the number of patients they see in-person and refuse to write vaccination exemption letters.
But they held off on striking because of low turnout that saw just 35 per cent of GP practices vote.
Industrial action can take many forms, such as working reduced hours, only performing certain aspects of the job, all the way to ultimate step a strike.
Union rules mean the BMA would need more than 50 per cent of all its GP members to vote in favour of industrial action, something the 2021 poll did not achieve with its 35 per cent turnout.
The call for GPs to follow in the RMT’s footsteps comes after the union mounted a series of disruptive rail strikes — dubbed the worst since the 1970s — which brought the nation to a standstill last week.
Teachers unions and the civil service are also being balloted on potential industrial action to add to Britain’s ‘Summer of Discontent’.