Why I don’t support GPs taking industrial action

I don’t support the BMA’s view that NHS GPs in England should consider taking industrial action. I think this will alienate the public and lose GPs support at a critical time. NHS England is not going to invest adequately in the current independent contractor model of general practice. Why does the BMA not ballot GPs about the NHS salaried option instead whereby GPs and their staff would become NHS employees?

The BMA’s GP Committee has always opposed the option of GPs becoming salaried employees of the NHS. For many years, NHS England has been unwilling to fully support the independent contractor model of NHS general practice. Instead, we are going to find the independent model gradually fading and GPs increasingly being employed by commercial companies contracted to deliver NHS services.

This will be a much worse outcome for GPs and patients than other alternatives. And in anticipation of all the responses from GPs about why the current independent model is better than salaried NHS employment, I know these arguments well and list them in a blog I published in 2013. I have been a GP partner for over 20 years and know how this model of NHS primary care works, including its strengths and weaknesses.

I make the counter argument about why we should pursue the option of GPs becoming salaried employees of the NHS (like the > 1m current NHS employees in the UK ) in an article I published in the BMJ in 2016. The BMA needs to consider this employment model seriously if it is to make working as a primary care doctor viable.

All the BMA’s attempts to prop up the independent contractor model of general practice in their negotiations and discussions with NHS England over the last 10 years have failed. Their latest attempt will also fail.