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‘Most LMCs’ restarting levies to GPC funding body following fears of splits

‘Most LMCs’ restarting levies to GPC funding body following fears of splits

Exclusive Most LMCs are now restarting payments of voluntary levies to the GP Defence Fund (GPDF) – the organisation that funds the BMA’s GP Committee – the new chair of the organisation has told Pulse.

A row between LMCs and the GPDF saw around one-third of LMCs withdrawing their levies, which led to fears around the future of the GPC and even a potential new organisation taking its place.

The new chair, Dr Zoe Norris, told Pulse that she wants the funding to go on activities that will support GPs across the country, rather than on the ‘basic functions’ of the GPDF.

The limited company collects money from LMCs to support GP interests, including funding the BMA’s GP Committee and LMC conferences.

But some LMCs started to suspend payments in September last year due to concerns about the organisation’s finances and a perceived lack of transparency about how their contributions were being used. 

This prompted a change in leadership at the organisation, said Dr Norris, who was appointed last month.

The new board, elected at a membership meeting on 6 January, also includes Dr Julius Parker and Dr Paul Evans as directors.

LMCs pay a voluntary ‘quota’ or levy of 3p per head of patient population, which totalled £1,946,375 in payments to the GPDF in 2021.

But Dr Norris, who herself resigned as a GPDF director in October due to concerns about the organisation’s decision-making, said ‘around a third of LMCs’ had withheld payments in recent months.

She explained that LMCs had been ‘split into thirds’, including a third that ‘historically have not paid the GPDF levy for a number of years because of longstanding issues’, a third which continued to pay their levies throughout, and a third that recently withheld or suspended their levy payments.

Regarding the latter group, the Humberside LMC medical director said: ‘We’re starting to see most of those LMCs coming back but we still have some work to do.

‘I think LMCs know what they’re getting with me in this role – honesty, an admission when things go wrong, and a focus on prioritising the wellbeing of GPs.

‘Hopefully that’s reassuring them and helping to get the levy flowing again.’ 

She also said the new board intends to ‘transform the GPDF into a much slimmer, more agile organisation so that LMCs feel much more closely linked to us’.

Londonwide LMCs, which suspended its annual levy worth over £260,000 in September, is now in discussions with the GPDF board about recommencing payments.

Its chief executive Dr Michelle Drage told Pulse: ‘The refreshed leadership should represent a step in the right direction and we will continue to review how the GPDF can best enable the voice of grassroots general practice to be represented at a national level, at a time of such hostility to the profession.’

Another LMC leader, who wished to remain anonymous, also told Pulse that they will likely restart payments due to the board changes.

The GPDF will hold is annual general meeting in September, and Dr Norris said she is aiming by that point ‘for 100% of LMCs to feel confident and to be happy paying their levies’.

One of the main concerns raised by LMCs was the amount of reserves the GPDF held, which Dr Norris said she wants to be spending ‘on things that make a difference to LMCs and GPs across the country’.

She added: ‘If the levies weren’t being restored, we’d be in a situation of having to spend that money, which was meant for other things, on the basic functions of the GPDF.’ 

Pulse has also learned that the GPDF board is currently in discussion with the BMA about how large a slice of GPDF’s funds should be passed on to its GP Committee, when a current arrangement expires this summer.

Dr Norris said the discussions have been ‘very positive, very open and honest’ but did not say whether the GPDF was hoping to increase or decrease GPC funding.

Former GPDF chair Dr Dougy Moederle-Lumb declined to comment.

Last year Pulse reported on the GPDF’s work to create a new representative body for GPs in the form of a ‘National Association of LMCs’, however Dr Norris confirmed the new leadership team ‘have no intention’ to become such an organisation.

Instead, she indicated support for the work of three LMC chief executives – Peter Higgins, Michael Wright and William Greenwood – who over recent years have developed a support network to share training, development and peer support resources for LMC staff.

Dr Keith McIntyre and Dr Kalindi Tumurugoti remain directors as nominees for Scotland and England respectively, and Dr Phil Cox has recently been appointed as the nominee for Wales following Dr Ashok Rayani’s resignation in November.

The previous board also included Dr James Booth, who resigned in November, and Dr William Butler, who was not re-elected at the meeting 6 January.



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Turn out The Lights 23 February, 2023 9:45 am

Surely the fact that lmcs are withdrawing for the GPC should act as some kind of feedback.You need to up you game very quickly to keep the gravy train running.Plan B perhaps,not a salaried service.