GP services ‘will be cut’ if Government imposes new contract, says BMA

GP services will be “cut” if the Government imposes a new contract for family doctors, leading medics have warned amid reports of plans for potential industrial action in the winter.

The British Medical Association (BMA) said the new contract would mean that GP surgeries would “not break even” and would “expedite” the closure of practices.

Members of the BMA will soon hold a referendum on the contract, which has been rejected by the union’s general practice council (GPC).

It comes as the GP publication Pulse reported that the union has set out an approximate timeline for potential GP industrial action.

Pulse said that “collective action” could start in late November or early December.

The BMA has said previously that the contract would only see practices given a “well below-inflation 1.9% baseline practice contract funding uplift” which was “nowhere near what is needed to prevent practices from reducing staffing and services or closing altogether”.

The referendum for GP members of the union would run from March 7 to March 27.

“The referendum result will not prevent the Government from imposing its 2024/25 contract but will send a strong and powerful signal expressing the profession’s views about the contract offer and will inform potential collective next steps,” it said on the union’s website.

In a video posted on the BMA website, Dr Katie Bramall-Stainer, chair of the general practice council (GPC) for England at the union, said that the GPC felt that the contract, as it stood, “does not bring hope, will not bring stability and will not guarantee safe care for our patients”.

Dr Bramall-Stainer added: “Practices will not even break even, services will be cut and that’s not fair on our patients.

“Despite our suggestions and solutions, this contract will expedite practices closing – over a thousand have closed since 2015. Not to mention the thousands of GPs who have been lost from the NHS workforce despite gaining six million more patients.

“We can’t do more with less – general practice is at saturation point.

“But we are professionals and expert communicators. So GPC England has mandated us to go back undaunted, ensure no stone is left unturned, and continue conversations over the next four weeks to hopefully prevent a chain reaction of events from ensuing.

“We will still be coming to you, the profession in a referendum, from March – this won’t stop a contract from being imposed, but I believe it will demonstrate professional unity as we take steps we haven’t taken in over a generation.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “GPs and their teams are at the heart of our communities, and we hugely value their vital work.

“We have listened to feedback from general practice and the new contract will reduce unnecessary and burdensome bureaucracy. This will free up capacity so they can spend more valuable time with their patients, whilst also giving them greater autonomy to run local practices.

“It would therefore be disappointing if the BMA is considering industrial action in advance of the recommendation from the pay review body.”