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GPC plans seniority pay reform to close salaried-partner gap

By Steve Nowottny

Exclusive: The GPC is drawing up secret plans to reform the seniority payment system to tackle the divide between partners and salaried GPs, Pulse can reveal.

Negotiators are considering whether to add a clause to the BMA's model contract to guarantee salaried GPs incremental increases linked to experience.

The move comes despite mounting opposition to the existing model contract, which some LMC leaders have attacked as offering ‘totally unrealistic' terms and conditions.

In a ‘heated' closed debate at the latest GPC meeting, negotiators are understood to have outlined a range of options that could lead to a radical restructuring of the seniority system, worth almost £80m a year to practices.

Negotiations on the future of seniority pay have already taken place at an informal meeting between NHS Employers and GPC negotiators last month, with the Government believed to be keen to phase the current system out.

Seniority payments were frozen in the latest pay deal.

One option discussed at the GPC meeting would be to move seniority payments into the global sum and link core funding to the number of partners. Another would link payments to the number of sessions partners worked. A third – and the most contentious – would make the payments available to non-principals under the model contract.

One GPC member told Pulse each option was controversial but the GPC was determined to thrash out a solution to protect seniority pay.

‘The Government's very keen to get rid of it – we're very keen not to.'

GPC member Dr Kailash Chand warned GP leaders should be mindful of opening a ‘Pandora's box'. ‘If you start negotiating on seniority payment, the consequences could be nobody gets it,' he said.

Dr Richard Vautrey, GPC deputy chair, refused to comment on the options under consideration and said that seniority payments already incentivised partnerships.

But he said the GPC was keen to explore an incremental pay scale for salaried GPs – and would consider adding it to the BMA's model contract: ‘It might enable practices to reward the experience and skills salaried GPs might bring.

‘We would have to try to ensure it was adopted across the board because we wouldn't want practices looking at the youngest labour because they're the cheapest.'

The debate over the future of the BMA's model contract looks set to take centre stage at this year's LMCs conference.

Dr Dermot Kenny, vice chair of Greenwich LMC, submitted a motion calling for a ‘radical revision' of the ‘totally unrealistic' contract: ‘My views are seen as old-fashioned but I believe will be reflected in a lot of GPs.'

But Dr Judith Harvey, a locum in north London, submitted a motion condemning some practices for offering salaried GPs ‘unfair and unfavourable working conditions'.

‘A lot of people come off their training with a very high opinion of their colleagues and find this charming, people-orientated sympathetic trainer is actually a pretty unpleasant employer,' she said.

GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey Options under discussion

• Move seniority payments to the global sum and develop a mechanism to somehow incentivise partnerships – but this could decouple seniority payments from experience
• Expand seniority payments to everyone, including salaried GPs – but could actually remove the incentive for practices to offer partnerships
• Link payments to sessions worked – could again decouple seniority payments from experience and mean partners had to work a set minimum to qualify for seniority pay

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