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Thinking of going salaried? Get the finance sorted

If you are one of general practice's army of locums you will have noticed the continuing increase in advertisements for salaried posts. The rise in PMS practices and the advent of the new GMS contract mean the next few months bring a real window of opportunity for locums to consider the increasing attractions of a more permanent post.

Your finances will be easier as a salaried doctor, a regular, predictable income being top of the list. But to maximise your gain you should be aware of possible pitfalls well in advance. There is a large range of salaries at present. In many cases the higher the salary the more desperate your potential employer is to secure your services. Tempting salaries for apparently few hours of work suggest backbreaking toil in a miserable inner-city practice, so investigate each job very carefully

In most cases salaries are negotiable: £55,000-£60,000 a year is a good average, although market forces and the scarcity of GPs are testing this figure all the time. The salary is usually based on a 10-session week (no half days) and paid pro rata. As no one in his or her right mind works 10 sessions a week, aim for a minimum of £55,000 for eight-nine sessions. This should cover basic two- or three-hour surgeries and an average two visits a day only. Sessions out of normal hours, Saturday mornings, out- of-hours and so on should be extra.

Although some surgeries throw in defence subscriptions, worth around £3,500, most expect you to pay your own. Paperwork should stem from your clinical work only. Anything you do attracting a fee should be paid to you. Decent practices will not quibble about this.

You will not need to worry about tax and PAYE; this will be deducted by the practice via PAYE. If you have more than one job ensure the tax office gives you the correct code otherwise you could pay too much or too little.

It is still worth making a tax return each year, as there are a few things you can claim for ­ GMC/BMA/MPS/ MDU fees are all tax deductible. The taxman allows few other items if you are salaried, but it may still be worth employing an accountant for a year or two to ensure you do not miss anything.

Expenses are only tax deductible if they are wholly connected with the business, so the amount you can claim on motoring expenses is tiny and usually only related to the mileage you do on home visits. For me this is so small that I don't bother claiming.

As a salaried GP you will not be expected to buy into the capital assets of the practice, such as the buildings. Although many see this as a plus point, investment in property is usually the best investment you can make, aided by the cost/notional rent system. There is nothing to prevent you looking at a partnership later in your career.

You must get professional advice on income protection insurance. As a partner you get paid allowances for a year, although the practice may

expect you to provide a locum after

a certain time off sick. As a salaried

GP your sick pay entitlements will

be considerably less. Check your proposed contract for details.

Finally do make sure you have studied the maternity and paternity arrangements in your proposed contract as this is one other definite advantage of salaried posts over locum work. They should at least mirror the BMA-recommended levels.

Salaried GPs have an easier life than partners but do earn less. You can't have everything!

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