At her first BMA conference speech yesterday, new GP Committee Chair for the union, Dr Farah Jameel, announced that four out of five GPs are in favour of taking industrial action in response to increasing pressure put onto their practices by the government.
An indicative ballot was held across England after Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, said he would name and shame GPs who refuse to give an in-person appointment to anyone who requests one.
The vast majority (80%) of GPs voted to withhold information on how many face-to-face appointments they deliver in order to thwart the success of this policy, while 84% said they would refuse to issue Covid-19 exemption certificates to those who cannot be vaccinated against the virus for medical reasons. This could prevent workers from seeking or remaining in jobs where vaccination is mandatory, such as in social care and the NHS.
“Make no mistake. This is a profession on its knees, and continuing to fight for its existence,” Dr Jameel told conference. “This hasn’t come out of the blue and this should not be a surprise to anybody, not least those in Whitehall.”
The BMA has criticised the government for intimating that GPs are not working hard enough and that they are not providing face-to-face appointments. In fact, Dr Jameel said, the evidence shows that GPs are working “harder than ever”. Over the last month, 34m appointments have been delivered – 3m more than before the pandemic – and nearly 65% were held in-person.
“And now, with 20 months of this gruelling pandemic behind us, we are demoralised, broken and exhausted,” Dr Jameel said.
“We have seen precious little tangible recognition of everything we have done. And every day we move from being applauded to being vilified, these sentiments stoked by biased media coverage, divisive policies and divisive politics.”
She called on the government to “show the same commitment to patients and the public that we do every day of our working lives and to work with us rather than against us”.