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BMA announces sweeping reforms to improve salaried and locum GP representation

By Gareth Iacobucci

The GPC has unveiled a raft of radical reforms to the way it represents salaried and locum GPs, in a bid to curb the growing disenfranchisement among sessional doctors which has threatened to split the profession.

The measures are outlined in a report from the GPC Sessional GPs Working Group, produced following an extensive consultation that included a survey of more than 1,800 sessional GPs and a review of the way LMCs represent salaried and locum GPs.

The GPC will double the size of the Sessional GPs Subcommittee (SGPS) to 16 members, and will hand the group more authority in negotiations, so that they can act on matters ‘wholly or primarily relating to sessional GPs'.

The changes signal a victory on a key strand of Pulse's One Voice campaign, which called for stronger representation of sessional GPs within the BMA.

But the reforms stop short of offering sessional GPs their own negotiating committee, after the survey revealed a ‘clear' preference by sessional GPs stay within the GPC.

Instead, a newly-formed SGPS executive committee will be given four permanent seats on the GPC, in addition to sessional GPs already elected through regional and national elections, and will meet regularly with GPC negotiators to discuss sessional issues.

In addition, new guidance has been produced for LMCs to help them improve their representation of salaried and locum GPs, and a new communications strategy is being developed to help the BMA improve its flow of information to sessional doctors.

The report comes after Pulse revealed last August that the National Association of Sessional GPs was planning a dramatic split away from the BMA to join the rival Medical Practioners' Union. The threat of a split prompted the GPC to launch its investigation into its representation of salaried GPs and locums.

GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman said: ‘I believe the recommendations will provide a real impetus for change, allowing sessional GPs to have a greater voice at every level in the profession, whether it is locally with LMCs or nationally through their strengthened voice in GPC.'

Dr Vicky Weeks, chair of the GPC Sessional GPs Subcommittee, said: ‘It is clear from our consultation that the BMA, as well as the rest of the profession, needs to do more to listen and act upon the views of sessional GPs.

‘While sessional GPs had concerns about the potential conflicts of interest inherent in having one body represent employers and employees, they were also clear they didn't want a separate committee. I feel this is a recognition of the importance of remaining united in order to best represent the entire profession, particularly in the difficult times ahead.'

She added: ‘We believe these reforms will address the concerns of sessional GPs, but they are by no means the end of the process. As part of the continuing work of the Sessional GPs Subcommittee we are going to keep under review how these changes work in practice.'

Dr Vicky Weeks