Local Medical Committees (LMCs) can speak on behalf of GPs, practices, and patients but may not engage in or encourage industrial action. LMCs are democratically elected, representing all GPs at all levels. But LMCs are not trade unions and do not have the protections of industrial relations legislation (this is the remit of the BMA and other unions). Whilst we are free to speak up on behalf of GPs, practices, and patients when others cannot, we cannot engage in discussions around, or support for, industrial action.
At Londonwide LMCs we recognise the significant pressures on both the health system, and the increasingly unbearable pressure on the staff within it. If you or your practice are affected by, or have specific concerns about, the planned industrial action by junior doctors, nurses, paramedics, ambulance staff or physiotherapists you may find this information from NHS England of help.
GP trainees may choose to take part in periods of industrial action which followed on from the strike ballot announced on 20 February. The BMA has issued guidance for practices, trainers and LMCs on how to manage periods of industrial action by trainees.
Practices should already be aware that any GP trainees they have working with them are considered supernumerary by commissioners, therefore a practice should be able to deliver the full service set out in the GP Contract without relying on this part of their workforce. Training practices should not be putting out any messages saying their service will be affected by the absence of their junior doctor workforce. Practices may explain to patients that the absence of staff in trusts on strike days could impact on demand for general practice.
Ongoing industrial action
- The BMA junior doctors strikes are ongoing, with the next one confirmed for 13-18 July.
- The BMA consultants ballot result was announced on 27 June, with a strike due from 20-21 July and 24-25 August.
- Health workers represented by Unite, remain in dispute but have not announced further dates.
- Royal College of Nursing did not meet the turnout threshold in its most recent strike ballot which closed on 23 June.
A number of unions working in the NHS suspended their upcoming strike dates to consult members on a new pay offer. These include:
Resolved pay disputes
- Unison health workers accepted a pay deal on 14 April.
BMA General Practitioners Committee advice
The BMA is the recognised trade union for GPs and as such is in a position to offer a view on industrial action within the NHS. Their advice issued to practices on 14 December 2022 is as follows:
“Many professional groups are undertaking industrial action this winter as part of contractual negotiations and disputes with government and their employers. Whilst practice staff are not in dispute with their employing practices, some of these actions will impact on GPs and practices. The background to these disputes is very similar to pressures that GPs will recognise as currently impacting on them and their practices. Erosion in real terms pay, lack of effective workforce planning, deteriorated terms and conditions, failure to provide sufficient training places, and a disregard for the wellbeing of an exhausted and demoralised workforce apply to all NHS profession groups.
“Government and NHS England have recognised that strikes will inevitably disrupt patient care, whilst unions have committed to preserve emergency care so as not to put patients at risk.
“Practices may receive requests to help support secondary care or community services at times of industrial action. Examples may include:
- GPs or practice staff working in ED/urgent care
- Practice nursing staff undertaking work ordinarily done in hospital
- GPs supporting ambulance services whether with home visiting or at call centres
“We would strongly advise practices to carefully consider the implications and impact on the care of their own patients if becoming involved in these plans. By depleting our practice workforce to support these services it will risk harm to our patients in general practice, potentially increase their waiting times, put practices at contractual risk by reducing the service that they are able to offer, and have GPs and practice staff working beyond their competence in roles they would not ordinarily fulfil. This is in addition to potentially undermining the cause of our clinical colleagues in their trade disputes, and the likelihood of their support of any potential future action by members of the BMA
“GPs and practice staff are faced with unmanageable demand for our services and skills, and practices are finding it increasingly difficult to provide safe care. The care of the patient is our primary concern, and it is vital that we devote ourselves to doing this within our practices, and not artificially shoring up other parts of the NHS, which are impacted by industrial action.
“More information can be found here.”