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Reaction: Plan for salaried GPs to split from BMA

Key GP figures give their reaction to the news that salaried GPs are planning to split from the BMA and join the Medical Practitioners' Union.

Dr Laurence Buckman, GPC chair

I'd be very said if they did [break away]. It would weaken the profession and weaken salaried doctors. But it's their choice. It's perfectly legitimate to join whichever union you choose. The BMA can do the job just as effectively. It's up to sessionals if they want to break away within the BMA or externally. I don't see that there would be any great benefit in joining them and I think it would be detrimental to both the BMA and salaried GPs. There is much more that unites us than separates us.

We have a sessional GP negotiator. We have a sessional GPC subcommittee. LMCs are supposed to have a proportion of their membership that are sessional GPs. We produce guides for sessional doctors and a platform at the level of a sub-committee of the GPC.

Where we think the number of sessionals is not high enough we co-opt them to the GPC – we co-opted two this year. I have spoken for the last four years about my concern that sessionals were not getting the opportunities to get involved in the fabric of the profession.

There are a lot who don't want to be sessional and they should not be made to be. Sessionals are part of the highest level. We try to encourage sessionals to become partners if they want.

But sessionals would say 'you're saying all this but partners are not giving us partnerships'. I don't blame sessionals for being angry. We can only tell, encourage and cajole but we can't make GPs behave in a certain way. That's a criticism that they perceive in us. I recognise it's a valid criticism. That's not happening because of uncertainty, and partners ask 'why should I take more of a risk with my practice and my money?'. Secondly, people think it's in their financial interest but we are reaching a point where it will become more economic to have a partner than a salaried doctor. I think we're reaching that point now. My job is to persuade people of that. If I were a sessional I would feel it's all talk but nothing is happening. Partners also feel unloved and impoverished.

We're trying to encourage people to expand. I can see why sessionals feel the BMA does not help them. I think they are wrong, but I see why.

Sessional GPs would have to ask themselves who would represent fund them and how would it work? The MPU negotiates with us. They have voting rights on the GPC. So they would end up with a position inside the GPC and I'm not sure what they would have gained from that.

Dr Ron Singer, Medical Practitioners' Union president and a GP in Edmonton

'There's an inherent conflict of interest because the majority of GP members of the BMA are self-employed independent contractors and often the employers or salaried GPs. If there's a dispute try as hard as they might there a difficulty in having one organisation represent both parties.'

'The MPU has always wanted to ensure employing conditions of employed doctors are satisfactory. We feel we have a lot of expertise in employment issues. It's a natural position for us to represent an under-class of GP and that's how the salaried doctors are seen.'

'It could be good or bad but the positive way to see this is that better representation for a group of doctors can never be a bad thing. Splitting with the profession: there are already other doctor groups that operate openly so it's not new. All we are offering is competition. What's different is that there's another professional organisation coming up against the BMA and the competition may be good for the profession in that it will force the BMA to sharpen up their ideas with respect to salaried doctors.'

Dr Ruth Chapman, salaried GP in south west London

'It's an interesting idea but it could be potentially fragmenting. It would be better if the BMA offered salaried GPs more representative roles. I think it would worry me to fragment. I see why they would want it. It would not necessarily be a good move. I could see why they would want to if they feel that they are not being represented by the BMA but my view is if the BMA are not providing what they need then they should change that. It would contribute to making the profession even more two-tiered. I would be concerned that that's not necessarily the way forward.'

'It's important salaried doctors put themselves forward to have roles of responsibility. They often feel they can't because they are employees but they need to feel they are able to go for positions on the BMA and GPC.'

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