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General practices risk termination of contracts over industrial action

Authors: Helen Jaques 

Publication date:  12 Jun 2012


General practices that take part in the BMA’s day of industrial action on 21 June to protest against changes to the NHS pension scheme risk termination of their general medical services (GMS) or personal medical services (PMS) contract, the association has warned.

Taking lawful industrial action is a breach of contract, so a primary care organisation could attempt to terminate a GMS or PMS/17c contract if a practice takes part in the day of action later this month, the BMA has said.

It said that the risk of a contract being terminated on these grounds is “very low” but cannot be ruled out. Practices can help to mitigate the risk by discussing and if possible agreeing with their primary care organisation the extent of the service to be provided on the day of action, it advises.

Hospital doctors and other employed doctors such as salaried GPs are legally protected from unfair dismissal during the industrial action.

Doctors who take part in the day of action also risk losing a day’s pay and will not accrue pensionable service, the BMA has said. General practices will be under no obligation to pay salaried and locum GPs who take part in industrial action, although the association has asked practices to be “supportive” and not deduct pay.

In addition, general practices have been warned that they cannot use an agency to provide locum cover for doctors who participate in industrial action and instead have to use their current complement of practice staff to cover these doctors.

The BMA has called a 24 hour period of industrial action on 21 June after its members voted overwhelmingly in favour of action to protest against the government’s reform of the NHS pension scheme (BMJ Careers, 31 May, http://bit.ly/JWZmc8).

Under the reforms the NHS pension scheme will switch from a final salary scheme to a career average revalued earnings (CARE) scheme; members will have pay more in contributions, with the highest earners contributing more than 14% of their pay by 2014; and doctors will have to work until the state pension age (up to 68).

Doctors will be expected to attend their place of work as scheduled on the day of action to provide urgent and emergency care only. Doctors who decide to stay at home if they would normally be expected to work on that day would be acting outside the scope of the official industrial action and could be subject to disciplinary action.

The BMA has urged all doctors planning to take part in the industrial action to hold discussions with their colleagues and employers about what work will take place on the day and what will be cancelled.

The association will send formal written notice of the action to all employers, including general practices that employ salaried GPs, not less than seven days before the day of action.

Helen Jaques news reporter BMJ Careers

 hjaques@bmj.com

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