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Baker: GPs must retain their independent contractor status

Exclusive The incoming RCGP chair has rejected her predecessor’s suggestion that GPs should give up their independent contractor status and become salaried employees.

Speaking exclusively to Pulse, RCGP chair-elect Dr Baker said that the independent status of GPs was ‘incredibly helpful’ and meant that the profession could remain ‘flexible and adaptable’.

She also emphasised that current chair Professor Clare Gerada’s call for a historic change in the status of GPs in the NHS was not college policy and had ‘never been discussed’ in the college.

The call for GPs to give up their independent contractor status was recently rejected by GPC negotiator Dr Peter Holden who said the move would ‘emasculate’ the profession, but was backed by prominent GP academic Professor Azeem Majeed.

Asked if Dr Baker supported Professor Gerada’s call at the RCGP conference earlier this month, she said: ‘No, I don’t [agree].

‘I believe that independent contractor status actually has particular value for general practices in terms of the small business model, which I think has been incredibly helpful in the way that general practices have been flexible and adaptable.

‘Of course many GPs are not independent contractors, they have a number of different models of working [which] work well for them, so it seems to me that having a mixed economy with both independent contractor status and the different options that are available to people, and at different times of their career, work well - and I certainly wouldn’t be leading a campaign to scrap the independent contractor status.’

She added: ‘What Clare has been talking about is her view, it has never been discussed in the college. It has never come to college council, there are no papers, there is no college policy. There is no college policy that says we should move away from independent contractor status and that is very important for people to realise.’

Dr Baker will take up her position at the RCGP next month and she said that she would place a much greater focus on underpinning the college’s arguments with facts and figures. She revealed that RCGP has commissioned the management consultant Deloitte to analyse the current NHS funding situation in detail in a bid to strengthen the college’s calls for more funding and more workforce to go into general practice.

She said: ‘What we have been doing is exploring how we can “follow the money” and it is actually quite difficult to get good data so we have commissioned some work to go into that in more detail. So I think the change from when I take over is that we will be presenting more of a business case with the facts and figures to support the arguments we are making.

‘We will try to make sure that the politicians, policy makers and the public are aware of these facts and can react to the problems that we are facing.’

Dr Baker said she would continue to build on the college’s work illustrating the impact of the fall in funding in general practice.

She said: ‘My priority is to make the business case to get more funding and more workforce for general practice. The college is about standards of care for patients in general practice but we can’t have good standards of care if we don’t have enough GPs and we don’t have enough resource.’