Shift rates set to rocket in out-of-hours free market
A GPC decision to put a low price tag on GPs' out-of-hours income will stimulate a free market where GPs will be able to command far higher rates of pay for out-of-hours work, co-operatives have predicted.
GPC contract negotiators last week revealed they had asked for out-of-hours income to be priced low enough to make it worthwhile for GPs to opt out.
GPs are now almost certain to jettison their formal commitment and instead work out-of-hours shifts for co-ops and deputising firms at up to £60 an hour or £100,000 a year in the open market.
GPC joint-deputy chair Dr Hamish Meldrum said: 'We have negotiated it so you don't lose lots of money if you opt out. But you won't get a lot if you decide to opt in.'
The National Association of GP Co-operatives has estimated GPs' average out-of-hours income, from the basic practice allowance, item-of-service payments and out-of-hours development fund, to be around £4,000.
Stephen Price, chief executive of Surrey co-op Thamesdoc, predicted market forces would lead to 'huge inflation' in shift rates.
'If large numbers of GPs opt out at the same time, the number of doctors prepared to work shifts is finite,' he said. 'People will have to pay more and more money to get doctors to work for them.'
The predicted rise in shift rates has raised fears that
primary care organisations will not be able to afford cover.
Dr Richard Usher, medical director of Macclesfield co-op in Cheshire, said his trust had said it could not support hourly rates of £60. 'I think trusts will be forced to pay that,' he said.