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Doctors explain day of action plans

Thousands of doctors are finalising preparations for next week’s day of action over unfair changes to the NHS pension scheme, taking steps to ensure patient safety is paramount during the 24-hour period in which only urgent and emergency care will be provided.

Some doctors, and a practice manager, explain what is being planned:

List limited to emergencies

Devon GP Mark Sanford-Wood said a majority of the nine GP partners at the Litchdon Medical Centre in Barnstaple had decided to take part in the day of action.

He said: ‘We reached a consensus that we were comfortable with people acting in accordance with their conscience. A majority of partners wish to support industrial action, but other partners will be working as normal.’

He added that he would be taking part. ‘I will deal with my list on an emergency basis only,’ he said.

GP practice consensus

Theresa Cameron, practice manager at the Newland Medical Practice in Bathgate, West Lothian, said all five GP partners at the surgery had agreed to support the industrial action, even though only two were scheduled to work on June 21.

Ms Cameron said: ‘We will issue prescriptions to patients who have already pre-ordered them, but we won’t take any requests for routine prescriptions, and will only deal with emergency requirements for patients.’

The practice will inform patients and the health board of its intentions.

Meetings on hold

Public health doctor Shaji Geevarghese said preparations were under way at the HPA (Health Protection Agency) as to what should be expected of doctors taking action.

HPA local negotiating committee members have had talks with management.
Dr Geevarghese, who works for Kent Health Protection Unit, said the definitions of urgent and emergency care were not as clear-cut in public health as in other acute specialties. He added that individual public health doctors had to decide for themselves.

The associate specialist said: ‘An example of urgent work would be any kind of outbreak, which has to be dealt with immediately. Our work also involves meetings with stakeholders, and there may be meetings that are not urgent. An example might be one to formulate a policy or document for work in the distant future.’

Cases postponed

Norfolk consultant anaesthetist Robert Harwood said two-thirds of cases booked into his pre-assessment clinic on June 21 would need to be postponed.

He said: ‘What I won’t be seeing is any of the purely elective cases. Out of a clinic, I normally see between nine or 10 people in an afternoon, and I would say probably two-thirds of them will be postponed.’

In the morning he will be a local coordinator for the action on behalf of the Norfolk and Norwich LNC.

He said: ‘I will be fielding questions from colleagues so that they can implement their own action, and taking calls for things that they may be asked to do.’

Patient safety priority

Kent consultant anaesthetist Mike Browning will be working on the morning of the day of action in the interests of patient safety — something the BMA has insisted must come first.

The patients he is scheduled to see are being treated for cancer. The Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust LNC chair said: ‘I have to see them; I cannot put them off to another day — that would be against what the intention is for the day.’

Hospital doctors considering action have been encouraged by their LNCs and the BMA to let their managers know as soon as they make a decision.