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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Buckman wades into 'greedy partners' row

By Georgie Hobbs

GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman this week hit back at claims that ‘greedy' GP partners are boosting their incomes at the expense of salaried GPs and locums.

Dr Buckman admitted he had a growing postbag of complaints from non-principals claiming their careers were being stalled by GPs unwilling to take on new partners.

He conceded that the dwindling number of partnerships was of concern, but claimed it was financial uncertainty that was the cause.

The number of salaried GPs has doubled since the introduction of the new GP contract, whereas the number of GP partners fell by 5.6% last year.

Dr Buckman said: ‘Practices are worried about their future, particularly when they feel under threat.

‘This is about perceptions of stability rather than money.'

When employment benefits and practice running costs are taken into account, taking on a new partner or hiring a salaried GP costs about the same, he claimed.

‘There's no financial benefit to having one or the other. I'm sure there are principals who want to hang on to the lolly, but my experience is that it doesn't make a lot of difference.'

In June, his predecessor as GPC chair, Dr Hamish Meldrum, urged GP partners to embrace younger doctors as potential partners or ‘bring about a self-fulfilling prophesy that will place the control of general practice into the hands of fewer and fewer people'.

In a letter to Pulse this week, Dr Natasha Jones, a GP in Warwickshire, claimed that greedy partners were to blame for the lack of partnerships, adding: ‘I feel completely let down by the new contract, which paved the way for this exploitation and cleverly anticipated the greed of GPs in order to sound the death knell of general practice.'

However, Dr Mary Hawking, a GP in Dunstable who hired a partner to enable her to go part-time earlier this year, said taking on salaried GPs cost more than partners.

She estimated that 14% employer's contribution, National Insurance, maternity or paternity pay, study leave and medical defence membership added about 20% to each GP's salary.

She said it took three separate advertisements to find a ‘prospective candidate who did not turn green at the long list of duties required'.

Dr Hawking added: ‘We are a practice that believes in running on partners but only those who are fully engaged, not someone who thinks it would be nice to have a salary but not the responsibility.

‘If you want to limit your involvement with clinical governance and practice-based commissioning, earn a lot of money and go home at 5pm, being a locum is your best bet.'

Dr Dave Barrett, a salaried GP in Coventry, who was recently offered a partnership after 18 months of applications, said: ‘Without the revision of the GMS contract there's no way the BMA can just exhort about what they feel might be in the long-term interests of general practice.'

Dr Laurence Buckman: Uncertainty, not greed, to blame for fall in partnerships Dr Laurence Buckman: Uncertainty, not greed, to blame for fall in partnerships

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