On the day the ballot opened at the start of this month, Dr Richard Vautrey, the chairman of the BMA’s GPs committee, announced plans to stand down.
On Thursday he was replaced by Dr Farah Jameel, a north London GP who has previously complained that GPs are being “exploited and taken advantage of” by being expected to provide more services than they are paid for.
Dr Jameel said she hoped her election was “an opportunity to reset our relationship with the Government and begin to rebuild general practice”.
The Government said on Thursday that publication of earnings data would now be deferred until the spring.
A government source said: “General practice is and always will be a bedrock of the NHS. We recognise the need for GPs and their teams to be focusing on seeing patients during the busy winter months. We look forward to continuing this dialogue to bring in the changes.”
A separate source close to the discussions questioned whether the delay would be enough to persuade the union against industrial action.
Changes ‘could have caused disruption over winter period’
A BMA spokesman said: “With GPs facing some of the most intense pressures many have ever experienced, the BMA has been clear that this policy was likely to be counter-productive.
“Crucially, these changes could have caused disruption over the winter period, distracting from the immediate priorities facing practices and their patients. We are glad that the Secretary of State is delaying these plans, providing some breathing space for hard-working GPs.”
Published NHS data on GP earnings shows average pay in 2019/20 topped £100,000 before tax and expenses after an 11 per cent rise in four years.
Earlier this year, Freedom of Information disclosures revealed that 270 GPs in England were earning more than £200,000, with the highest earner on more than £700,000. However, such data was published on an anonymised basis.
Ministers have promised for years to force GPs to declare earnings above a threshold of £150,000, and had already delayed the introduction of the measure.
Last month, they published an NHS Plan for GPs and Patients, which said practices must “respect preferences” for in-person appointments, with surgeries named and shamed if they failed to deliver.
The £250 million plan also promised extra support for GPs alongside proposals to publish the details of all earnings over £150,000, with later NHS guidance committing to publication by Nov 21.
Ministers and health officials have repeatedly promised action to ensure patients can see a GP in person. Before the pandemic, around 80 per cent of appointments took place face-to-face – but the latest figure is just 61 per cent.
Earlier this month, Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary said GPs’ failure to see patients face-to-face was piling pressure on Accident and Emergency departments.
The threat of industrial action represents the first major clash between the BMA and ministers since the junior doctors’ strike five years ago. The union has already told GPs to stop seeing new patients, accusing Mr Javid of creating a “bully’s charter” in his bid to boost face-to-face appointments.