GPs back strike action over face-to-face appointments

The doctors’ union has voted in favour of industrial action – but its new chief has instead called for a “fresh start” with the Government after the vote got a low turnout.

The British Medical Association polled its members as part of protests against a government drive to boost the number of patients being seen face-to-face.

Doctors were asked if they would refuse to comply with specific duties in their contracts as tensions with ministers escalated.

Dr Farah Jameel, who was last week elected as chairman of BMA’s England GP committee, said on Thursday that more than 80 per cent of members had backed such actions.

But in her first speech since taking on the role, she instead called for a “fresh start” and a “reset” in the relationship with the Government.

In her first speech in the new role, Dr Jameel said it was time “to step back from the rhetoric of division, to reflect on the dedication that general practice has shown in the most difficult of circumstances and to demonstrate a willingness to work together to create solutions to this crisis”.

It came after just one in three doctors took part in the BMA’s consultative ballot, the precursor to an official vote on industrial action.

Last week there were signs that tensions between the two sides were cooling, with the Government delaying plans to force high-earning GPs to publish their pay levels.

And new data published on Thursday shows a significant rise in the proportion of patients being seen face-to-face, with 64.4 percent of GP appointments taking place in person, in October, up from 60.7 per cent the month before. 

Doctors had been asked if they backed a number of forms of industrial action. The poll found 84 per cent willing to not comply with requests for Covid-19 vaccination exemption certificates, while 80 per cent backed action to prevent officials monitoring levels of face-to-face appointments.

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