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Non-principals need contract answers

I may have to vote No in the March contract ballot. Before non-principals vote Yes, there needs to be straight answers to some basic questions they are asking.

The definition of 'non-principal' will cease, because 'principal' will also cease. A GMS principal is appointed to a declared vacancy and is given a list and attracts the Red Book determined funding, so usually he automatically becomes a partner because of the income that he attracts to the partnership. The vast majority of PMS principals are ex-GMS principals or their direct replacements ­ although, as a glimpse of the future, many PMS practices are not replacing partners but are taking on salaried assistants.

So, in the new GMS contract, the distinction will shift ­ between partners and non-partners. But how will you get to be a partner? What will dissuade existing partnerships from shrinking, thus increasing the individual profit shares, and appointing salaried doctors instead? Where does it say that existing partnerships should remain at least numerically the same, or even appoint only GPs as partners?

The benchmark for employed GP pay will disappear ­ the INR is a GMS Red Book derived figure. In future, partners' incomes will become much less transparent as this will be derived from the global sum. Non-partners will not welcome a national employed assistant pay scale as they won't enjoy the benefits of the current advantages of market forces. But recruitment and retention initiatives may well start to work in a few years and an oversupply of GPs who are not able to become partners means a recipe for exploitation by partners or insouciance by the Government.

Non-principals and registrars attending GPC roadshows must ask the negotiators about these issues, and mustn't accept vague promises.

Before I vote Yes, I need clear understanding of future pathways to partnership and a guarantee of salary scales.

Dr Peter Harvey

GP assistant and locum


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