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Is a parting of ways inevitable? Salaried GPs have their say

What the findings of our survey this week could mean for salaried GPs.

By Gareth Iacobucci

What the findings of our survey this week could mean for salaried GPs.

Pulse's revelation that a rebel group of salaried GPs and locums are planning to split from the BMA and join a rival union has sent shockwaves through the profession. This week, an exclusive Pulse survey lays bare the extent of the divisions between employers and employees – but also finds a common yearning for a unified profession.

Here we ask - what do the results tell us about how salaried GPs are viewing the future? You can also read about the implications for GP partners here...

The message from the salaried GPs and locums Pulse surveyed is loud and clear: things must change, and fast.

The planned link-up between the National Association of Sessional and the Medical Practitioners Union appears to be hugely attractive to many sessional doctors.

As many as two thirds say they would plan to join the MPU following the latest developments, and around two thirds believe the creation of a rival union will ultimately benefit the profession.

That's not to say that salaried GPs and locums are happy with the divide within general practice, because they are not – a clear majority believe it is damaging.

But as a group, they appear far less optimistic than partners that it will be possible to reconcile the differences. As many as two-thirds believe the momentum behind a formal parting of the ways is now unstoppable, and a formal divide inevitable.

In what could be a portent of the future, many sessional GPs have already sounded out the NASGP. Chief executive Dr Richard Fieldhouse says it has received overwhelmingly positive feedback from members since the story broke a fortnight ago, unprecedented levels of interest from non-members, and double the average number of requests to join.

The plan Dr Fieldhouse masterminded would see the MPU – a division of the trade union Unite – representing sessional GPs in negotiations with GP partners over contractual conditions.

Dr Oliver Denton, a salaried GP in Solihull, West Midlands, believes far from splitting the profession, such a move will be crucial in preserving its unity.

‘Removing the power of a doctor to control another doctor who is the same grade and doing the same job is key to preventing the development of a two-tier GP work force,' he says.

‘There are many GPs who seek the benefits of being salaried – fixed responsibilities, hours and so on – but this perversely is exploited by a fortunate few partners.'

The NASGP and MPU may now seek to challenge the existence of the independent-contractor model of general practice, and Dr Denton is among those who backs such a move.

He says: ‘Salaried posts should be offered with contracts controlled by the PCTs to aid practices that need salaried staff and not practices that choose to profit from having salaried doctors.

‘This removes the issue of the BMA's split personality and restores the BMA to looking after the common interests of all its members.'

Three quarters of sessional GPs feel irrespective of whether the profession splits or not, it is time for the model BMA contract to be renegotiated, as two thirds feel is too weighted towards partners.

There is a glimmer of hope for unity – a third of sessional GPs still believe it is possible for the BMA to reasonably represent both employers and employees – but it may require significant compromises to be made by the BMA.

Some 85% of sessionals said the BMA should offer salaried GPs and locums their own BMA committee on a par with the GPC, a proposal understood already to have been ‘slapped down' by GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman.

Dr Fieldhouse says he has ‘great respect' for the BMA, but cannot ignore what his members keep telling him.

‘They feel that ultimately the BMA would be best, but it just hasn't been doing its job very well. Despite ongoing criticism from both within the sessional sub-committee and from outside, it doesn't seem to have been listening.'

Dr Fieldhouse, who says he has not been contacted by the BMA since the news broke, is firmly of the opinion that a split between the different factions is now inevitable.

‘The boat is sinking' he says. ‘It's too late to start patching things up, they need to start thinking about redesigning the boat.'
Here we analyse

Is a parting of ways inevitable for partners and salaried GPs? Is a parting of ways inevitable for partners and salaried GPs?

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