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Is pensions industrial action the right battle to fight?

Frankly, I am worried. Let me explain, last week I visited one of my excellent practices, more than 10,000 patients, five partners, modern premises and a highly thought of practice.

It is recovering from a PMS review that takes £175,000 out of its income. Now I know what you are thinking – PMS practice, high profits – but not here. It spends its resources on patient care, and the full-time partners earn less than the average GP. So the loss of the £175,000 raises questions over the viability of this practice, and it is undertaking an urgent cost-cutting exercise to see what it can do to save the practice.

On top of this however, their PCT has made a pre-Care Quality Commission (CQC) survey of the premises and has told it it must spend £125,000 on improvements to the premises to get ready for CQC inspections now. This may be the clubbing that kills off the practice. Now there are practices with poor premises, but I promise you this is not one of them. I would say in the Ramsay Brown premises parade this would be in the top 10. In conversation with it I asked if it is the only practice affected by this, and of course it is not. There are other practices in the PCT also affected. Are they going to fight this with their local colleagues? – Possibly.

So what am I worried about? I am worried that the GP profession has been outmanoeuvred by the DH. It is no secret that the DH believe GPs are paid too much, and most of us are expecting a new contract with less funding in the next few years. An eminent partner with a well-known firm of GP solicitors is convinced the DH will start attacking rent reimbursements.

Sure pensions is an issue, and the BMA have taken this issue in its teeth and the profession has voted for industrial action, the last resort (except resignation I suppose). But the pensions issue is not going to wreck the profession. Practices are not going to close over having to make more contributions and retiring later. But practices will be closing and closing soon if the profession cannot stand up for its colleagues whose practices are been bled dry of funding and are no longer viable.

Thursday’s industrial action is imminent, but is this the right battle to fight?

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