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GPs split over calls for salaried profession

By Gareth Iacobucci

GP leaders have rejected radical calls for general practice to become an entirely salaried profession, but only after a passionate debate at the annual Scottish LMCs conference.

Partners rallied to defend the profession's independent contractor model after a conference motion urged GPs to adopt a new salaried model for general practice in line with the NHS consultant contract.

The controversial motion, although defeated, split GPs on generational grounds, with a number of younger GPs voting for the proposal and expressing dissatisfaction at the dearth of GP partnerships.

The debate comes hot on the heels of a major new policy paper from the RCGP and BMA, envisaging the end of distinct partner and salaried GP roles, to be replaced by a team-based system headed by a new breed of ‘primary care directors'.

Dr Daniel Franks, the GP who tabled the motion, said partners were not passing on their share of the spoils to salaried doctors, and that the current employment model needed to be urgently reviewed.

Dr Franks, a GP in Stanley and member of Tayside LMC, said: ‘The partnership model is not fair in its current form. Salaried GPs don't want to be salaried. It's just because there's stuff all else for them to do. Partners are being told to take them on [as partners] but they're not doing it.'

Dr Franks – who himself is a GP partner - cited Pulse's recent investigation into the number of GP partner advertisements, showing a huge rise in the proportion that were for salaried posts, as evidence of the dwindling number of partnerships. ‘There are no partnerships available,' he said.

Unlike GPs, consultants are directly employed by the NHS under the terms of their contract. GPs proposing the motion argued that this style of contract would offer better pay and conditions for salaried GPs, by giving them more parity with partner colleagues.

But GP delegates rejected the motion, following a series of impassioned defenses of the existing GP partner model by members from the floor, who said that any such move would play directly into the Government's hands.

Dr Kirsty Vickerstaff, a member of Highland LMC, said that moving from the independent contract model would leave GPs with no room to move in its dealings with the Government.

Dr Vickerstaff said: ‘By relinquishing the independent contractor status, we pull any teeth we do have out.'

Dr John Rankin, a GP in Stirling and a member of Forth Valley LMC, said protecting the GP partner model was the only way of preserving continuity of care. ‘If this is not the way forward, general practice as we know it is doomed.'

GPs at the annual Scottish LMCs conference rejected calls for a move to a salaried profession, but only after a passionate debate

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