Now GPs are pressing ahead with plans for industrial action in row over face-to-face appointments
Doctors are pressing ahead with plans for industrial action as the furious row over face-to-face appointments intensifies.
The British Medical Association last night said it will ballot practices to see if they support taking action to reduce their ‘unmanageable workload’.
And it accused the Government and NHS England of ‘adding fuel to the fire’ by failing to back down on plans to improve patient access.
Earlier this month, Health Secretary Sajid Javid unveiled a nine-point package of measures to tackle the difficulties of seeing a GP in person.
It followed a Daily Mail campaign to improve the number of appointments held in-person. Currently just 61 per cent are face-to-face, down from 80 per cent before the pandemic.
British Medical Association said it will ballot practices to see if they support taking action to reduce an ‘unmanageable workload’ amid row over face-to-face appointments (stock image)
The £250million plan would mean doctors cannot deny a face-to-face appointment unless there is a good clinical reason – and surgeries which don’t deliver enough in-person consultations would be named and shamed.
But this sparked a row with the BMA who urged GPs to refuse to comply with the plan which they called a ‘bully’s charter’.
Despite hopes it would back down over the threat of strike action, the Left-wing doctors’ union said it will now hold an ‘indicative ballot’ of GP practices in England.
They will be asked if they support taking industrial action in four key areas, including the naming and shaming of practices which fail to improve face-to-face access.
They will also be asked if they will comply with rules on ‘pay transparency’, which would mean that GPs earning over £150,000 are named.
And they will be asked whether they should refuse to oversee medical exemptions for people who cannot get vaccinated, which has added to their workload.
Currently just 61 per cent of appointments are face-to-face, down from 80 per cent before the Covid-19 pandemic
The results will be known by next month and could pave the way for the first industrial action taken by doctors since the junior doctors’ strike five years ago.
Patient groups, MPs and moderate doctors have all urged the BMA to back down and reach a compromise with ministers for the sake of millions of patients.
But the row has only intensified in recent days and the BMA last night said that ‘recent comments from the Department of Health have only added to the anger and desperation felt by GPs’.
This refers to a statement from the department on Thursday that said it will not back down on measures to publish surgery-level data on face-to-face appointments.
A spokesman said: ‘There are no plans to change the set of measures outlined earlier this month to support our phenomenal GPs.
‘Transparency of data is vitally important as we level up healthcare across the country.’
Defending the plans for industrial action Dr Richard Vautrey, of the BMA, said the workload facing GPs was ‘unmanageable’ and patient care was suffering as a result.
He added: ‘These actions are not directed at patients but absolutely at the Government and NHS England. In the interests of patient safety, they must act now to stop the abuse, reverse the unsustainable workload and address the burnout felt by so many GPs and their teams.
‘The Government’s plan has added fuel to the fire in creating further bureaucracy and punitive measures for practices and demoralised the whole workforce.’