Three-quarters of NHS GPs want to go on strike

Members of the BMA during a rally outside Downing Street last year
Members of the BMA during a rally outside Downing Street last year - Victoria Jones/PA

Three quarters of GPs working for the NHS want to go on strike, according to a new poll.

In a survey of 391 family doctors, 72 per cent said they were willing to strike over pay, funding and workload.

Leaders of the British Medical Association (BMA), the doctors’ union, said the profession was tired of being “bullied and gaslit” as it considers timing a strike during the expected autumn general election.

The poll, carried out by GP Online, found that 83 per cent of GPs who had voted in favour of industrial action said their pay and wider general practice funding was a key reason why they would walk out.

The same number blamed burnout and stress, while 82 per cent said they would strike because of high workloads and 78 per cent said it was due to concerns about patient safety.

While GPs could embark on all-out strikes, the majority are self-employed, which makes walkouts unpalatable.

Previous discussions of industrial action have centred on options of “work to rule”, which means doing the minimum contracted, or refusing to comply with particular tasks.

The majority of GPs are partners, with average annual earnings of £153,000, while most work a three-day week.

‘Workload has become intolerable’

In the poll, 84 per cent backed striking in line with the BMA’s guidance on safe working limits, and three in five family doctors wanted to see partial or complete list closures, where new patients will not be registered for a period of time.

One anonymous GP said: “It’s a shame that it has come to this, but I now feel that the Government will not engage in meaningful discourse without understanding the level of dissatisfaction currently felt by GPs about pay and working conditions.”

Another family doctor said they did not “want to take industrial action but feel it may be required as workload has become intolerable”.

It comes days after the BMA’s GP committee held a referendum asking more than 19,000 GP and GP registrars whether they accepted the new contract for 2024-25 from the Government and NHS England, with 99.2 per cent voting against it.

The contract was imposed on Monday despite the result of the ballot, which the BMA said had left doctors “frustrated, angry and upset” because it would only give practices “well-below-inflation 1.9 per cent baseline practice contract funding uplift”.

NHS England said the funding increase of £259 million would provide a two per cent pay rise for all GPs and practice staff.

‘Today, we start the fightback’

But Dr Katie Bramall-Stainer, the BMA’s GP committee chairman, said the ballot result showed the profession was “at boiling point”.

“When I qualified as a GP in 2008, general practice was called the jewel in the crown of the NHS, but general practice has been demeaned, diminished, diluted, bullied and gaslit long enough,” she said.

“Today, we start the fightback, bringing our patients with us because patients want access to their family doctor in a surgery that feels safe with a well-resourced team ready to meet the needs of our communities.”

Dr Bramall-Stainer said general practice was “the bedrock upon which the rest of the NHS stands” and that any strike action would be targeted to “harm” NHS England and the Government rather than patients.

The BMA has indicated that strike action could be timed to coincide with a general election later this year, and Dr Bramall-Stainer said doctors’ leaders would now discuss the next steps for the profession.

Last year, one in 20 patients waited more than four weeks for a GP appointment. Dr Richard Vautrey, the president of the Royal College of GPs, attributed the dramatic increases in GP waiting times to short staffing.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “GPs and their teams share the frustrations of patients on this issue. Despite GPs and their teams working incredibly hard and doing more appointments than they have ever done before, there are simply not enough of us to meet the growing needs of our patients.

“We have got an increasing population and yet the GP workforce is declining in number. And so it is no surprise that our GP practice teams are really struggling, and yet we will deliver more than a million appointments today.”