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Prospective partner isn't interested in paperwork

Our prospective partner is approaching the end of her probationary year. She works three days a week. She has asked if she could become salaried and reduce her commitment to two days a week. The reasons given are that she does not want to take part in the non-clinical aspects of practice (we would normally get a new partner involved at this stage) and she wants to devote more time to private sports medicine. She has already been doing this for three years. How can we decide what to do?

Welcome to the new breed of GP. This situation is not uncommon. The difficulty for practices is that their businesses need be run. Non-clinical work is necessary, even with the best practice manager.

Your partner wants what is best for her. While there is nothing intrinsically wrong with this, it is not the attitude required from a good equity partner. Base your decision on what is best for your partnership.

Is she likely to stay much longer at all? Her sports medicine is expanding and she seems to find this both absorbing and lucrative.

Do you want a salaried partner? You will face this question sooner or later so you ought to resolve it now.

Consider the employment aspects, a contract, national insurance, PAYE, sick pay, maternity leave.

What salary should you pay? This would normally be less than an equity partner if she were going to do less work. How will you cover the extra workload? Perform a full review to decide how much more cover you actually need.

If the decision is still difficult you should consider her performance over the last few months. If she is a good GP and you all get on well with her, you may decide on a trial period of salaried status, having negotiated her expected duties carefully.

If not, start looking for a replacement.

Your partner may change her mind

You and your partners must ask yourselves just one serious question. Is your newest colleague a good doctor with whom you want to continue to work? If so, it would make sense to accede to her request even if it means taking on another GP (a retainee might be ideal) to cover the day she will be dropping.

Salaried status is an attractive option for a young female GP with outside interests. Not only does it simplify the issue of maternity leave by giving her the rights of an employee, it also means if her domestic circumstances change, or if she wishes to make sports medicine her full-time career, she will be able to leave without having to worry about disentangling herself from a legal partnership and selling a share of the premises.

If you have never employed a salaried partner before, contact your PCT. It will have expertise in this area and will be able to help you with the administrative issues.

You need to discuss a realistic salary level. A pro rata scale based on £55,000-£60,000 for nine sessions a week is typical. You also need to establish right from the start whether any non-NHS fees she generates should be treated as partnership income ­ in which case she will not benefit from them ­ or be retained personally.

Maybe on reflection she will decide profit-sharing partnership is in her best financial interest.

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