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Fed-up partner wants to finish work earlier

I am in a practice with four full-time partners and after eight years the only female partner says she is fed up with not getting home till 7pm and wants to see more of her children. She would like to change her evening surgeries to 2pm-4.30pm instead of 4pm-6.30pm, which will create problems as many of our female patients work. Nor does she feel she should take a reduced profit share since she will continue to see as many patients as the rest of us. If we do not agree, she may leave to take up a PMS post. We think her demands are unreasonable, but would hate to lose her.

GP's advice

Rethink the structure of in-hours time

There is a clear need for compromise. Accede to your partner's request and the ill-feeling generated among the rest of you will continue festering. Call her bluff and she may well leave. The job market is currently on her side. None of you should be finishing as late as 7pm and, if you are honest, the rest of you would welcome the chance to get home earlier.

Sometimes habit and custom cloud the need for change, so consider a complete rethink of how partners structure in-hours time. A partners' meeting or even an awayday would be sensible. The remit should be 'Improving conditions equally for all partners'. Your female partner can hardly disagree with this principle.

A linked issue should be how shares are calculated. You could look at a points system for all partnership work, each aspect carrying agreed points. This would include availability, to avoid a partner working the same number of surgeries but less total time.

Starting times for afternoon surgery could be staggered. Each partner could work one late afternoon with a rota for Friday. The late afternoon doctor could even start morning work later that day. Perhaps you should also look at PMS as an option ­ it is

possible that extra funding could become available to provide more GP or nurse practitioner cover.

In any case, the whole practice should make a change.

 · Call her bluff and she

may well leave ­ and the

job market is currently on her side

Maybe you could all do with shorter hours

After eight years with the practice, it would be surprising if your partner followed through her comments about moving for this reason alone. Even the best salaried posts have considerable disadvantages in comparison with partnerships, and she may have difficulty finding one that allows her to work such restricted hours while preserving her current income. She will also have developed attachments to the practice and her patients which she will find difficult to break.

But she has identified a real problem with the way your practice is organised, and I am surprised nobody has protested about your long working hours before now.

I am sure she recognises that it would not be reasonable to expect to take home the same amount of pay for shorter hours of availability unless she genuinely is packing the same amount of work into her shorter working day, which may well be the case if she works solidly all afternoon while the rest of you go home for a long lunch or spend two or three hours doing non-NHS work for which you personally retain the income.

There is plenty of room for negotiation here. All of the partners would benefit from getting home a little earlier sometimes. It should be possible to reorganise your surgery hours so that each of you has a weekly half-day, an afternoon surgery on two days a week, and an evening surgery on the other two. Your partner may accept this, but if she is adamant that she will not accept anything less than an early finish each day, it may be worth accepting this as the price of retaining a valued colleague.

 · Your partner has

identified a real problem

with your organisation

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