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CAMHS won't see you now

'Better-off' locums join battle to wreck BMA fees campaign

Locums have backed attempts to derail a three-year BMA campaign to publish suggested fee scales, arguing they can earn more under the current free market.

The support comes after the National Association of Non-Principals claimed the BMA was only pursuing its battle with the Office of Fair Trading because it wants to keep locum rates down.

In a letter to the OFT, the association said the BMA favoured the interests of principals and should not be allowed to publish fee scales.

The OFT ruled in 2000 the BMA fee scales were anti-competitive and has resisted concerted BMA appeals to reverse the decision.

Locum rates have since jumped to £400 a day in some areas because of worsening GP shortages, leaving many practices unable to afford cover.

Dr Mary McCracken, a locum in Northamptonshire, said it would be 'embarrassing' for locums to have a fee scale as they were self-employed. She added: 'We know what we take on as non-principals, are aware of the risks and have the wits to know what the local rate is.'

Dr Jane Lees-Millais, a non- principal in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, said: 'Any group of self-employed individuals ­ plumbers, electricians or piano tuners ­ have the right to choose what they want.'

Dr James Hider, a locum in Cheshire, predicted a 'complete split' over the issue, with lower-paid non-principals supporting the BMA. He said: 'If rates were there they probably would have been used by the majority, but we've adapted quite well. You would probably earn less with BMA rates.'

The BMA has argued the fee scale will protect locums in case rates fall and help those who cannot travel around for the best deal.

Dr Russell Walshaw, GPC member and East Yorkshire and Northern Lincolnshire LMCs' medical secretary, said locums and principals could 'work around' rates set by the BMA. But he conceded a scale would make costs cheaper.

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