GMC reminds striking doctors of their obligations

By Robin Stride

As consultants and juniors take further strikes this week, the doctors’ regulating body has voiced its concern for patients and urged for action to bring about a settlement.

A GMC spokesperson told Independent Practitioner Today: ‘The GMC has no direct role in this dispute, but we are deeply concerned about the cumulative impact on patients resulting from the ongoing industrial action. 

‘There are many challenges facing our health services across the UK, and there is much we need to do together to address them. 

‘We do not have a role in setting terms and conditions – including pay – and it is not for us to take sides in these disputes, but it is vital that all parties work to reach a long-term solution. Doing so will benefit patients, doctors, and the future of our health services.’

Set of questions

The council has previously published its position on its website with a set of questions and answers for doctors who are considering taking part in industrial action.

A key part of that position states that doctors are legally entitled to take part in lawful industrial action, including strike action. 

The GMC statement confirms there is nothing in Good Medical Practice and its explanatory guidance that prevents doctors from doing so, providing they continue to follow their principles, which aim to support patient safety. 

But it adds: ‘Whether a doctor takes part in industrial action or not, doctors will need to consider in advance how the proposed actions will impact continuity of care for existing patients, emergency care, and patient safety, in discussion with their employers and other colleagues. 

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Employers’  role

‘It’s also worth noting that employers have a vital role in planning and preparing for maintaining patient safety during a period of industrial action. This includes making sure continuity of care is maintained to the highest possible standard in the circumstances that they face.’

The GMC also covers a range of other issues including what to do if a derogation has been agreed and whether or not doctors should remain available if they are taking part in industrial action. 

See more on its website: Industrial action – GMC.

Prof Philip Banfield, BMA Council chairman

Before a joint consultant/junior doctor rally outside the Conservative party conference in Manchester this week, BMA chairman of council Prof Phil Banfield called again for a credible pay offer.

He said: ‘We don’t want to be on strike, we don’t want to have to protest at party conferences, but we do want doctors to be recognised as the highly skilled practitioners of medicine that they are. 

‘We want to be serving our patients. But without the staffing levels, pay and conditions that lead to doctor retention, the cost and consequences of waiting lists will continue to get worse and worse; we feel that we have no choice but to take this action, because this Government has ignored doctors and patients for so long.

‘We need a demonstrable drastic change in attitude from Government – no more excuses, no more reckless ultimatums, and no more empty words. If Mr Sunak and Mr Barclay simply come outside and meet us with a credible offer, we can start finding a solution that ends these strikes right there and then.’