The Government’s proposed changes to transfer responsibility for locum superannuation payments to practices will drive down locum fees and may make locuming a ‘less desirable option’ for GPs, says the BMA.
The official BMA submission to the consultation on the Government’s proposed contract changes also says that the workload for administering locum superannuation payments will mean practices use them less and that GP partners might be more unwilling to take sick leave.
The GPC reiterated its call for the proposal to be delayed for a year claiming that the Government has not yet spelled out how it intends practices to be reimbursed money they spend on paying the 14% employers’ superannuation charges, which are currently paid by PCTs.
It said: ‘We do not currently know the Government’s intentions for how the transfer of these costs would be handled in PMS practices. Delaying by 12 months would also allow time to assess current locum use by PMS practices and make appropriate arrangements.’
Its survey revealed that around 30% of practices think they will cut back on the use of locums because of the financial pressures caused by the contract proposals.
The GPC said: ‘We are concerned that an unintended consequence of the proposals could be that partners are put under pressure not to take sick leave when they are unwell, due to the practice no longer being able to afford the cost of a locum.
‘Transferring employers superannuation costs for locums into global sum is clearly an attempt to cap the Government’s contribution forever. This will increase costs to practices over time.’
However, Dr Richard Fieldhouse, chief executive of the National Association of Non-Principals, said it was unlikely that the use of locums will decrease: ‘If I had a penny for every time I heard practices want to cut down on locums. It just never happens. The analogy I use is that of any budget: if you spend £100 a week on food and now only have £80, you cut down on luxuries.
‘No practice has thought “let’s treat ourselves and get a locum in”. Locums are not a luxury item – they are a necessity. Practices will need to use locums because patients need to be seen.’