'Frustrated' family doctors launch new campaigning union

By Eleanor Bradford
BBC Scotland Health Correspondent


A new union has been set up to represent family doctors.

GP Survival was conceived on Facebook but is now setting up as a professional organisation.

It said it had recruited over 2,900 members across the UK in just over a month, representing about 5% of the total GP workforce.

Last week the BBC revealed that 42 GP practices in Scotland had been taken over by their local health boards.

This was done as an emergency measure.

Last year, one in eight GP training posts were unfilled.

GPs are currently negotiating the terms and conditions of a new contract which will come into force in 2017.

The organisers of GP Survival said it was "born out of frustration at the failure of the current bodies that purport to represent GPs".

The group said it will campaign for "sustainable workloads, fairer funding, a skilled workforce, appropriate use of General Practice and its promotion as a career".

Currently, GPs are represented by the British Medical Association and the Royal College of GPs. Some doctors feel these organisations do not fully represent them, and have expressed anger at the amount of money they make.

The Royal College of GPs organises GP exams, which generated a net income of £10m over the last five years.

The College says the full costs of the exam and supporting trainees through the exam process do not make a profit and showed a slight deficit in the latest set of available figures.

Both organisations charge membership fees of about £500 a year.

Contract negotiations

Membership of GP Survival is currently free.

Commenting on the launch of GP Survival, Dr Alan McDevitt, chairman of the BMA's Scottish GP committee, said: "Social media is a key platform for campaigning and Facebook groups like GP Survival can play an important role in communicating the pressures that doctors are facing.

"However, it is important to stress that the BMA has no political affiliations and is an independent trade union and professional body. Any suggestion to the contrary is completely false.

"In Scotland, BMA GP negotiators have been travelling the country speaking to grassroots GPs and developing a vision for general practice as we prepare to negotiate a new contract for 2017. Central to this vision are measures to manage workload, ensure appropriate funding and promoting a career in general practice."

The founders said GP Survival was a not-for-profit democratic group. In a statement, they said: "We have no conflicts of interest, nor political affiliations. We have a mutually agreed clause not to accept or seek any private or government positions until at least three years after last representing GP Survival."

Dr Maureen Baker, chairwoman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said the GP exam process did not make a profit and was in fact cost neutral.

She added: "The College shares many of the concerns of GP Survival - including the intense workload and workforce pressures that family doctors are currently facing. - and will continue to campaign on these issues until general practice receives the investment and resources it needs, including thousands more GPs to deliver the care that our patients need and deserve."

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