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Discrimination against sessional GPs has created a sub-class in our profession

GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman has asked all principals to offer partnerships to sessional GPs in order to prevent a catastrophe .

Clearly, creating a disgruntled group of younger GPs can only be a recipe for disaster.

But I see the issue as much broader than GPs just not having partnerships. There is now institutionalised discrimination against sessional GPs, some of whom feel they are now in a sub-class.

Most have not taken up sessional work through choice, as has been claimed. There are many who are prepared to take up the challenge of being profit-sharing partners but it's a struggle for them to get necessary exposure to general practice.

The recent changes in general practice have put practice-based commissioning at the forefront but, in general, there is no mechanism for a sessional GP to become a clinical adviser to a PBC board.

And in many areas, PBC meetings are attended only by GP principals. There is no possibility for sessional GPs to learn what is going on, let alone to have any input.

Similarly, PEC or PCT committee memberships or chairs are normally occupied by principals. If we don't allow more junior GPs to learn, there will never be the dissemination of skills and experience.

Likewise with provider company ventures. In some areas principals are setting up profit-sharing ventures but sessional GPs are rarely given any opportunity to become shareholders, and are seen only as a workforce. But their working conditions in such ventures, in general, seem far below the BMA standards.

We have clearly created a two-tier system. The vast majority of principals are honourable, approachable and helpful to sessional GPs, but a few seem bent on creating unpleasant working conditions for them.

The world won't change overnight, but we should all do our bit and there should be corporate responsibility as a profession. If there is no possibility of offering a partnerships, then revisiting the working conditions of any sessional GPs we work with would be a start. Just greeting locum GPs on arrival and making their stay pleasant by offering a good induction pack, no extra patients, and payment on time would all help.

These are my personal views. I'm proud that in Hillingdon we have a reputation of caring for sessional GPs with a well-run mutual support group and a supportive LMC. Our local practices never have problems getting good quality locums.

As GPs we all work hard, and at times it is easy to overlook certain important issues. The plea from Dr Buckman should make us all reflect.

Dr Sashi Shashikanth, West London Medical Centre and founder of Hillingdon Independent GP Group

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