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A faulty production line

Gerada to 'start dialogue' on GPs' independent contractor status in new NHS England role

Professor Clare Gerada’s new role at NHS England will see her tackle a range of ‘thorny’ issues - including the controversial question of whether GPs should retain their independent contractor status - the RCGP chair has told Pulse.

In an exclusive interview just days after her appointment was announced, Professor Gerada outlined some of her goals as the new clinical chair for primary care transformation in London - a paid, one-day-a-week position she will take on when she steps down as college chair in November.

She said she wanted to discuss how to best deliver integrated care, which will include her ideas for integrated care co-operatives, groups formed of primary, secondary and community care clinicans.

This could also involve examining GPs’ independent contractor status, she added, and moving away from the health service that was designed in the post-war years.

She said: ‘My priority for my first year is around talking to the profession about how we can best deliver services that are in the best interests of our patients and keeping the best elements of general practice – first contact care, GPs’ fingers on the patients’ pulse.’

Professor Gerada said integration was the best way of delivering services in the patient’s best interests and she wanted to start a ‘dialogue’ about how integration should look.

Her own preferred model for integration is ‘integrated care co-operatives’, a concept she explained at an RCGP event on federations last week, which would ‘bring together all relevant health care providers - within a contiguous and geographically bound authority area - as not-for-profit organisations with resources allocated and distributed according to the best needs of the population’.

However, in order to achieve this, ‘it may be that we have to look at some thorny issues’, she added. ‘We may have to examine the independent contractor status and decide what the pros and the cons of it are.’

She added: ‘I am not coming into my new job saying we need to get rid of the independent contractor status – I’m categorically not saying that. I am just saying let’s start to discuss these things and see where it takes us.’

The integrated care co-operatives would not necessarily mean GPs giving up their independent contractor status, she said, but they would make it ‘harder - and I am not 100% sure what the advantages are, although that’s not to say there aren’t advantages’.

Professor Gerada, who has been chair of the RCGP since November 2010, will also take forward NHS England’s ‘call to action’ on reforming GP services as part of her new job.


Readers' comments (29)

  • I agree with anonymous 9.07am.
    I also think that losing independent status would attract more junior doctors into general practice, because it is more similar to what they are used to (PAYE, etc). It would remove much of the financial risk and disparity.
    Arguments in favour of IS include autonomy and sense of ownership, which is personally satisfying, and has made GPs prepared to go the extra mile. However, this has been exploited and unappreciated by the government, almost to the point of destruction.
    I think Clare Gerada is right to suggest that we consider an alternative.

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  • At the same Federation meeting last week Clare Gerada said gave the impression that young GPs did not want partnerships. From an organisation with just 4 partners employing many dozens of salaried Drs this seems a bit rich- the partnerships are not being given. The PMS contract and 2003 GMS contract led a whole generation of older GPS to start employing salaried Drs as opposed to offering partnership- a situation which continues to this day. This has led to in many moderately sized practices where one now commonly finds 2 or 3 partners employing another 4-8 Drs.
    This has led to a weakened and divided profession which has absolutely no hope of defending the concept of partnership or practice working, and will ultimately will be to the detriment of patients as we are all either coerced by NHSE or local CCG's or sleepwalk into giving up partnerships and become employed by organisations such as Dr Gerada's in the guise of local networks.

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  • Many young drs would love to have a partnership but
    but models like Clares that keep hundreds of salaried drs suppressed from this aspiration is partially to blame for the self destruct mentality.

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  • Many of us have a suspicion that independent contractor status is a 'dead Man walking'.

    Whether by accident or design it is hard to be sure?

    Let's see now......

    Accident? We need to consider,as bloggers have commented, there were indeed financial advantages in the 2004 contract to employ salaried doctors in the subsequent year or two when profits were relatively high, prior to the relentless financial attrition since then -- this has prevented a generation of younger doctors obtaining partnership status, most of whom no longer want to do so I presume given the predicament the profession currently finds itself in. In other words, the perverse disincentive against employing young partners may indeed have contributed to the current recruitment difficulties, now that many partnerships wish to take on new/replacement partners.

    Design? We need to consider the following. Government/DOH have heaped vitriol through tabloid poodle press. Increased work load eg QOF, responsibility eg CCG involvement, bureaucracy, box ticking. Increased risk accrued by pressure to reduce referrals. Reduced resources -- taking away PMS cash this year the latest example. More favorable APMS contracts favouring private sector. CQC, revalidation, Professor Field appointed to lead yet another raft of monitoring -- the latest plank in government GP bashing. Is all this designed to make GP partners give up their independent contractor status?

    Anyway, some predictions --

    There will be a pretense of engaging practices in reasonable discussion and negotiation.

    At the same time the government will continue to ignore the outcome of negotiations completely as they did last year, then impose unacceptable contracts and working conditions on GP partnerships.

    The requirements for reporting, revalidation and monitoring will relentlessly rise, all monitoring bodies, individuals and organisations dancing to the government tune

    Many practices, especially smaller ones, will close because it is cheaper for the government to let them do so rather than buying them out. Some GPs will loose their health, livelihood and go bankrupt.

    The private sector will be given vastly more favourable contracts to pick up the pieces which will ultimately cost a great deal more even in the short to medium term (just look at the funding for some APMS contracts per head).

    The NHS will evolve rapidly into a health maintenance organisation model which with hindsight we will realise was the vision all along.

    Politicians will have achieved their goal, bypassing the democratic process and debate as they did so successfully with the last White Paper.

    Welcome to the modern NHS, or should I say Welcome to America?

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  • Keep GPs independent...we are good at what we do and being independent is a strong motivator to work hard for our patients. Cannot imaging I would work 11 hours a day if I was salaried !!

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  • It's nice of Prof Gerada to come here and comment.

    I'm afraid I don't buy it though - you may argue till the cows some home but there is a clear conflict of interest there. How can a co-director of 13 practices run by 200 salaried doctors have absolutely no conflict when remodelling the service in which she has her business. Even if there is no financial gain, there will be a political gain, or at least you will be pushing her views above the others as the last article about single handed GPs clearly show.

    I don't practice in London (thank god!) but London LMC should really object to this biased appointment. I feel RCGP is harvesting a toxic culture within it now where it's senior most members are using it as a political springboard, as seen here and by Prof Field.

    I probably will resign my membership next year.

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  • Perhaps naively, I fear the loss of independent contractor status risks losing far more than it gains, and may come with unintended consequences. My greatest concern would be that salaried GPs have no motivation to stay wedded to one practice/population for 30 yrs, which brings with it real continuity of care. Good general practice is more than just making one-off diagnoses and referrals, isn’t it? Find a way to achieve that level of continuity with another model and I’ll stop being so concerned about the future/value of General Practice.

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  • That this debate is fuelled from within seems like the divide and rule strategists at Whitehall/Tory HQ have played a splendid hand. Bravo.

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  • To underestimate the financial advantages to the country of GP partnerships, is naïve to the extreme.

    For the last ten months, my partners and I have been working an extra clinical session per week in order to provide a half decent service at a time of recruitment problems. None of us wanted to do this but we all felt it was our duty to our patients. Do you honestly think we would have the same mentality as salaried GPs? This is just a tiny example of the commitment differences and to ignore them is both ignorant and insulting to GP principals in normal sized practices ( ie not managing directors of huge empires)

    I agree with the sentiments that the previous contract and the influx of salaried GPs is what got us into this mess in the first place. The end result will be an entirely salaried workforce with slightly less workload but a lot worse pay and terms and conditions. Patients will not be satisfied either because if you pay people peanuts you get monkeys. GPs are no different.

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  • Sold down the river. Thanks Clare!

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