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BMA vows to take action over salaried split fears

By Gareth Iacobucci

The BMA has vowed to take action to try and stem the escalating divide in the profession, following the news that salaried GPs are in talks over a split from the association.

In a letter to Pulse, GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman and Dr Vicky Weeks, Chair of the GPC Sessional GPs Subcommittee, acknowledged the pressing need to tackle the growing divide, but urged GPs not to desert the BMA.

It follows Pulse's revelation that the National Association of Sessional GPs is in talks with the Medical Practitioners' Union – a division of Unite, Britain's largest trade union – to discuss an alternative representative body for salaried GPs and locums.

The letter pledges to set up a working group to create better representative structures within the organisation and at LMC level, and to ensure the interests of salaried and locum GPs were ‘properly represented' in negotiations with Government.

It attempts to reassure salaried GPs that the BMA continues to take all their concerns 'very seriously' - most notably the lack of partnerships and 'their frustration that we as an organisation represent both employees and employers.'

Letter from Dr Laurence Buckman and Dr Vicky Weeks of the BMA to sessional GPs

Dear Sir,

In response to your article (Salaried GPs in talks over split from BMA 19.08.09) we want to assure all salaried GPs that the BMA continues to take their concerns very seriously - both the lack of partnerships and their frustration that we as an organisation represent both employees and employers.

It is important to remember that irrespective of our dual role we will always represent the interests of salaried members if they have employment issues. If there is a dispute between an employer and employee who are both members, different advisors are allocated to each party and confidentiality is assured. BMA Industrial Relations Officers attend any dispute meetings to offer support and advice to salaried GPs and members also have the backing of the BMA's external legal team.

More widely the Sessional GPs Subcommittee has looked at the representation of salaried GPs within the organisation and at LMC level. As a result the BMA is setting up a group to ensure that the optimum representative structures are in place. The Sessional GPs Subcommittee will be intimately involved with this as well a getting on with the day-to-day work of making sure the interests of salaried and locum GPs are properly represented in our negotiations with the Government.

The Subcommittee has been key in our discussions with the Department of Health about death-in-service benefits for locums during a flu pandemic and indeed has made sure that the needs of salaried and locum GPs are taken into account during all the current swine flu planning. It has been heavily involved in revalidation plans, making sure it is fit for purpose for all GPs and it also negotiated and helped bring in the BMA's model salaried GP contract. We recognise that because it is not compulsory not everyone benefits from this contract, however it is there as a benchmark to set minimum standards for GMS practices and as a platform for negotiating with PMS and APMS practices. The BMA produced the recently published Salaried GP Handbook for its members, a complete resource providing all the information a salaried GP might need. We also provide courses and conferences for salaried and locum GPs which include employment, job planning and career advice.

We believe the BMA provides a good service to its members, but we are not complacent. We recognise that, as the numbers of sessional GPs continues to increase, the potential for growing tensions between salaried and principal GPs could affect the future unity and thus the strength of our profession. As such we are committed to ensuring the BMA continues to represent all GPs and to represent them in a way that responds to our members' best interests and which they feel is relevant to meet the needs of a modern GP workforce.

Yours faithfully,

Dr Laurence Buckman, GPC Chairman
Dr Vicky Weeks, Chair of the GPC Sessional GPs Subcommittee

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