Perfect storm of fewer GPs, rising workload, and increasing patient harm: BMA to hold indicative ballot of GP practices

by BMA media team

Press release from the BMA.

Location: England
Last reviewed: 29 October 2021

The BMA is to hold an indicative ballot of GP practices in England. The indicative ballot follows deep concerns expressed by GPs over patient safety linked to persistently falling numbers of GPs, unsustainable workload, and because of the rising levels of abuse of staff – none of which are helped and all of which are being worsened by the measures, or ‘access package,’ recently announced by the government.

This indicative ballot is asking England’s GP Practices whether they would be willing to take action in four key areas. These actions are intended to protect patient safety, not impact on patient care and will centre on practices refusing to comply with the bureaucratic and time-wasting parts of their contract that takes them away from looking after their patients. The actions include:

  • To disrupt appointment data collection which may be used for “Naming and Shaming” GP practices,
  • to not fulfil the contractual requirement to provide COVID vaccination exemption certifications to patients who request it,
  • disengaging from the Primary Care Network (PCN) Direct Enhanced Service (DES) either outside of the opt-out period or during the next opt-out period, and
  • not complying with the requirement from NHS England to submit GP earnings data.

The Chair of the BMA GP Committee, Dr Richard Vautrey said: “GP numbers are falling, and the total number of patients continues to rise. The workload, even without addressing the backlog, is now more than we can realistically and safely manage. Patient care is suffering as a result. It’s important to stress that these actions are not directed at patients, nor the care they receive, but absolutely at the Government and NHS England, and 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.

“When you add to that the levels of bureaucracy we are expected to cope with, the time has come to say we cannot go on like this anymore. Yet the Government and NHS England’s plan to solve this and support practices through the winter will make matters a lot worse.

“The Government's plan has simply added fuel to the fire in creating further bureaucracy and punitive measures for practices and demoralised the whole workforce. Doctors want to use their time to look after their patients, not to meet artificial targets and do even more paperwork.

“Despite all attempts to work on a solution focused package backed by the profession, and to put in place a plan that really would improve access, quality of care, free up time by reducing bureaucratic workload and enable practices to properly care for their patients over this expected difficult winter, DHSC’s recent comments have only add to the anger and desperation felt by the general practice workforce across England.”

The results of this indicative ballot will be known by next month.

Notes to editors

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.