BMA opens GP referendum on 2024/25 contract changes

by BMA media team

BMA press release.

Location: England
Published: Thursday 7 March 2024

GPs in England will be able to voice their concerns on the contract changes for 2024/25 (1) in a BMA referendum opening today. 

Although the referendum in itself has no ability to make changes to the contract, the GP committee is keen for the view of the profession to be known.  The referendum will ask GPs whether they accept the changes made by the Government and NHS England to the upcoming GP contract. The changes include (2):

1.     A baseline uplift offer of 1.9%, which is the same as last year’s contract despite rising costs and patient demand

2.     No expansion of the Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme (ARRS) to include GP roles, which means practices can’t access existing funding to recruit extra GPs or GP nurses

In February, the BMA’s GP Committee in England reviewed the contract, and warned that patients will likely suffer unless the Government dramatically improved the changes.

The committee unanimously instructed its leadership team to continue conversations with the Government to achieve this. Despite extending talks, the Government has refused to make any improvements and the contract changes will be imposed on the profession on 1st April.

In a recent BMA survey of 10% of practices in England, almost two in three (64%) told the Association they think the impact of inflation/rising costs could affect their short and long-term financial stability, and more than half (57%) said they had experienced cashflow issues in the last 12 months.  

Dr Katie Bramall-Stainer, chair of GPC England at the BMA, said: “Despite extending our talks with the Government, and consistently proposing cost-neutral solutions to support general practice for the year ahead, GPs’ concerns have, yet again, been ignored. We now face our third contract imposition.

“The baseline uplift offer of 1.9% is nowhere near what’s needed to keep on top of rising running costs and deliver safe patient care. In fact, it’s the same amount as the last contract, the impact of which has been devastating for practices, and many have had to close their doors for good. It’s getting harder to keep the lights on, harder to hire the staff we need, and harder for patients to access our services. With patient demand also continuing to soar, morale is being wiped out and GPs, drained and exhausted, are leaving the NHS altogether.

“The 2024/25 contract changes will only make this worse. The changes also mean that we’ve been denied access to existing funding that would help us hire more doctors. This funding is restricted to non-GP staff, but some communities desperately need more GPs and GP nurses, and practices should be able to recruit for these positions if it’s what their patients need. The Government has created a bizarre situation where we’re facing a workforce crisis in general practice but can’t hire the GPs to resolve it.

“We know what we think about this contract - now it’s over to the profession. We’re encouraging all GP members, no matter what stage of their career, to take part in our referendum and have their say. It won’t stop the Government from imposing the contract, but it will give us vital insight into how the profession feels and, most importantly, what we do next.”

The referendum will be open from 7th- 27th March 2024. While it cannot stop the Government and NHS England from imposing the contract next month, it will help to inform the BMA’s next steps.

ENDS

Notes to editors

  1. The full name of this contract is the General Medical Services (GMS) contract, which sets out how general practice services will be delivered each year.  

  2. For more information about the contract changes, please click here.

The BMA is a professional association and trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.

For media enquiries please email [email protected] or call 020 7383 6448.

Watch Dr Katie Bramall-Stainer, chair of GPC England at the BMA, update on the contract referendum here.