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General practice should move towards becoming predominantly salaried, says Burnham

Exclusive General practice should become a predominantly salaried profession, with GPs working as employees of large health and social care organisations, shadow health secretary Andy Burnham has told Pulse.

In an exclusive interview, Mr Burnham said the salaried model would be more financially sustainable, helping to ‘unlock’ funding ‘tied up in hospital’ and also help GPs cope better with patient demands.

Having previously indicated that GPs’ independent contractor status could be reviewed under Labour, these comments are the strongest indication that the party wants to move to a model of integrated care organisations that employ GPs, rather than GP partnerships.

Under the plans, which Mr Burnham said mirrored visions presented by the Royal College of Physicians’ Future Hospital Commission, GPs would ‘not be loyal to primary care or to the hospital but to the local population’.

Mr Burnham said: ‘I think that is the way we need to start thinking and be open to the idea that that might mean a GP working as a salaried employee of an integrated care organisation.’

Initially when asked whether his vision meant GPs would no longer be independent contractors, Mr Burnham said: ‘Not necessarily. I mean they could be.’

However, he later added: ‘I do actually see a role for more salaried GPs… outside of those contractual models. I think younger people might be more attracted to salaried employment.

‘I can very much envisage a future where we have more integrated care organisations that employ GPs, and the GPs will sit at the centre of teams that are multidisciplinary. They may be the decision maker if you like, or the kind of ultimately accountable person operating this different model of care.’

Mr Burnham also said that working within these organisations is how Labour envisages that GPs will be able to fulful its promises for patients to be able to access a GP appointment within 48 hours.

He said: ‘What I am saying is it is not just the GP sitting there and working through it. It is about the GP saying: “look if you need bereavement counselling I am going to get it for you today, because we have a structured person, provider, organisation that does this”. Or if it is relationship advice, benefits advice, IAPT or whatever it might be.

‘[Within the model] those non-medical interventions can be drawn down as quickly as it can be to give people a bit of paper to get some medication. I think that is about empowering the profession to really deal with people’s problems and help them regain control of their lives rather than just managing the symptoms of people’s lives.’

Mr Burnham also said he thinks this would help attract new recruits to general practice by ‘painting a picture’ to graduates of a profession where ‘people’s horizons are not quite as limited’ and where you don’t have to ‘take on commitments at a local level, the practice, almost commit your career to one area’.

However, deputy GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey criticised the plans.

He said: ‘I think if his plan is to actually increase the number of salaried GPs that means large numbers will look at general practice and say it is not for them. They want all that comes with being an independent contractor. Many would aspire to be independent contractors even if they initially wanted to become salaried GPs.

‘I don’t think that the idea that just having lots of salaried GPs will solve the problem. If we want to encourage doctors to choose general practice then we have to maintain and offer the range of models for doctors to work with.’

Former chair of the RCGP Professor Clare Gerada caused controversy last year with her suggestion that GPs should relinquish their independent contractor status. GPs reacted overwhelmingly against the suggestion and a Pulse survey showed more than three-quarters to be against such a move.

More recently, NHS England’s deputy medical director Dr Mike Bewick claimed that GPs’ independent contractor status will be ‘probably be gone’ within ten years.

Related images

  • Andy Burnham MP 2014

Readers' comments (81)

  • Come on GPC- the bullies have been throwing rocks constantly the last few years, time to grow some muscles and fight back!

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  • Only one thing that will work with these muppets..
    #MASSRESIGNATION
    then immediately charge patients a 'professional wage' per appointment that compares with equivalent professionals such as lawyers and accountants (albeit probably less than a plumber).
    This will certainly make the political parties popular with the electorate ;)

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  • I always find it extremely interesting that GP partners who are happy to employ salaried doctors balk at the rates of pay when suggested for themselves.
    Double standards I am afraid. I was recently shocked the hear that an ex female trainee at our practicing is being paid less than a male counterpart doing the same job!
    And we wonder why no one has much patience for us

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  • Anonymous | GP Partner | 17 September 2014 11:16am

    Oh dear trolls out again

    I think this story demonstrates real worries if you are a salaried GP and ongoing risk as a partner.

    By the way its the risk bit which GP Partners do which should carry a significant premium - its not at the moment though!

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  • There's so much that GP partners do for free. If you count the hours up you'll find the hourly rate lower than the current average salaried GP rate... So it's going to cost the NHS a lot more money to pay GPs to do all the work and attend all the meetings. The highest earning partners will take a hit but then they'll get a chance to go home at a reasonable hour and enjoy some time with the family. No more covering colleagues for emergencies. No more stress of CQC/ property maintenance. No more ordering supplies! We'd be able to concentrate on patients. No more jumping through hoops as our employer would have to negotiate changes with us.

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  • Excellent idea. worked so well when they changed the consultant contract to stipulate their working hours more accurately. Oh no, wait, they found that many consultants were working many more hours than they thought and on trying to cut down their hours alienated the workforce who started to keep to their contracted hours and not stay longer than necessary. And take more sick leave.

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  • What a plonker he is - does he not realise that this will cost the nhs a sod of a lot more as he will need to add additional paid hours to get what the partnerships provide as goodwill as they are looking out for best interest of patients

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  • Many partners will be better off under such a scheme as their sick leave would be paid for, employer pension costs would be met by state rather than partners themselves - however you will need to employ many more of them to cover what partners do now working in excess of EU Working time directive etc
    Mr Burnham is speaking through his......................

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  • Anon 1116

    Adverts for slaried jobs are 70-85k.

    By the time you add the employers pension to that you get close to partner drawings - that's without the extra work and responsibilities being a partner carries.

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  • They are lacking GPs in Scotland, maybe this will help their recruitment. What perfect timing for the Scottish referendum.......

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