Exclusive The company behind the UK's largest network of privately run GP practices is offering its doctors less than half the paid sick leave they would receive under the BMA's model contract.
An apparently typical GP contract offered by The Practice and seen by Pulse offers just two weeks' paid sick leave before dropping to statutory minimum pay, which could be as low as the standard weekly rate of £81.60 a week.
This is in sharp contrast to the BMA's model contract widely adopted by GMS practices, which in the first year of employment allows for one month's sick leave on full pay, and then two months' half pay.
The model contract is not compulsory at PMS or APMS practices, and there is no suggestion The Practice was breaking any rules.
But a GP who was offered the contract told Pulse – under condition of anonymity – that he was shocked to have been offered such a poor deal.
‘Obviously I had no intention of being ill or taking sick leave but you never know what is going to happen. If I had taken the job and been ill or had an accident which put me out of action for some time I wouldn't have been able to pay the mortgage and would have put my family's welfare at risk.'
The GP turned down the position after taking the advice of an employment lawyer, but said: ‘Private companies like The Practice are only going to take more NHS work and it does concern me that conditions for GPs will be eroded with totally inadequate sick leave.'
A spokesperson for The Practice said: ‘We believe the overall package we offer our GPs is very competitive and although some details of our standard contract may differ from the BMA model, our terms do enable us to recruit and retain high-quality clinicians.'
But Dr Stephanie Bown, director of policy and communications at the Medical Protection Society and a former GP, criticised the limited holiday provision: ‘It is dangerous to have this minimal sick provision. There is a risk that doctors who are sick feel they have to go to work, with all the risk that would entail.'
Dr Richard Fieldhouse, chief executive of the National Association of Sessional GPs, said: ‘If a GP is still sick on the 11th day, don't incentivise him to come back to work too early and potentially make catastrophic mistakes. This is shortsighted and shows the dangers of privatising the NHS.'