CREDIT: This story was first seen in the Daily Mail
Doctors are voting on whether to close their surgery lists and stop registering all new patients, the Daily Mail reports.
Up to 23,000 GPs in England are taking part in the ballot which could see them collectively suspending all registrations.
The mass closure would be a form of industrial action against an alleged lack of government funding for surgeries.
Up to 23,000 GPs in England are taking part in the ballot which could see them collectively suspending all registrations
The ballot is being overseen by the British Medical Association and GPs have until August 10 to respond online.
Should the action go ahead, it would prove catastrophic for patients, and anyone moving home could potentially be left without a GP. The BMA is initially surveying all ‘partners’ – the most senior GPs in charge of running surgeries – to gauge the level of support for the move.
If the majority are in favour, the union will carry out a second formal ballot which will determine whether the closures go ahead.
GPs are angry about a lack of funding, rising workload, a recruitment crisis of doctors and the fact they are being expected to open their doors at weekends.
Surgeries across England are overwhelmed and struggling to provide appointments for the rising and ageing population.
Last April, NHS bosses promised to alleviate the pressures by promising more money, an extra 5,000 GPs and a set of proposals to help ease workload.
But many doctors believe the NHS is failing to deliver these pledges and is effectively turning its back on the crisis.
The threat of industrial action comes despite GPs still benefiting from the lucrative contracts handed to them by Labour. The terms allowed doctors to opt out of being responsible for their patients at evenings and weekends – yet their pay soared to more than £100,000 a year.
Surgeries across England are overwhelmed and struggling to provide appointments for the rising and ageing population
Dr Richard Vautrey, acting chairman of the BMA’s GP committee has written a letter to all GP partners outlining the reasons for the ballot. It reads: ‘General Practitioners Committee (GPC) England has been asked to ballot practices as to whether GPs in England are prepared to collectively close their practice lists.
‘Such action would constitute industrial action, and with significant implications on GPs as independent contractors.’
A BMA spokesman said even if the closures were to go ahead, doctors would still provide urgent appointments for patients who were not registered. Meanwhile, GPs in Northern Ireland are carrying out a ballot over whether to resign from the NHS en masse and charge for appointments.
The move would allow doctors to run practices independently and set their own rules on fees and staff pay.
GPs in England last staged industrial action in 2012 in what proved to be a hugely unpopular strike over pensions, refusing to do all but urgent care for a period of 24 hours.
However, the majority of family doctors did not take part as they believed the strike was unethical.