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Community hospital pay 'meltdown'

GPs working in community hospitals earn less than the national minimum wage for the work, the BMA has revealed.

The shock statistic is set to form a central plank of the BMA's final attempts to negotiate a UK-wide deal for community hospitals.

The revelation of abysmally low pay levels came as the GPC warned that failure to negotiate acceptable pay rates could lead to 'meltdown' in community hospital cover and spark mass GP resignations from September.

GP negotiators said a practice with a contract to provide cover to an average-sized 30-bed community hospital for 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year, was paid just £3.50 an hour. The figure falls far short of the minimum wage for those aged 22 and over of £4.50 an hour.

GPC negotiator Dr Peter Holden, chair of the professional fees committee, said if UK-wide talks failed, deals would then have to be struck on a country-by-country or even hospital-by-hospital basis.

Dr Holden added if the Government expected GPs to continue to work on current pay levels the BMA would look at the possibility of claiming constructive dismissal.

He said he had been pushing for new contracts for two years – after the work was excluded from the new GMS contract – and GPs wanted a five-fold pay rise with no out-of-hours commitment.

Despite a communication from the Department of Health, which said it was 'willing to move forward in a way that involves all the relevant parties', ministers had not conveyed any sense of urgency, Dr Holden said.

'There will be one final attempt for a UK deal but the Government has got to realise it must come in weeks not months,' he said. 'It does look as though we are looking at four-country negotiation. I sus- pect what will happen is we will end up with local negotiations.'

Dr Holden wants all talks, whether UK, national or local, to be concluded before the summer or GPs will be urged to submit resignations from September, giving three months' notice to quit all

out-of-hours work at the

same time.

By Ian Cameron

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