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RCGP plans to cut staff posts and undergo restructure in bid to balance books

Exclusive: The RCGP is planning a major restructure, including merging some college functions and making some staff positions redundant, in a bid to cut costs - and will also rent out a floor of its new headquarters.

Emails from RCGP chief executive Neil Hunt, obtained by Pulse, warn of ‘difficulties in balancing the budget’ and state that the college will ‘need to lose some posts as a result’. The college has begun a consultation this week on reorganising its activity, and has also decided to rent out a floor of its new headquarters at 30 Euston Square in central London in order to raise funds.

The college will begin making repayments on the loan used to buy and refit the new headquarters in 2014.

In the email sent on 28 March to the management team at the college, Mr Hunt said: ‘As you know and as confirmed in today’s update message, we continue to experience difficulties in balancing the budget and as a result, a number of significant proposals which impact on the staffing structure and potentially on some roles were considered by the trustee board yesterday morning.’

‘My hope is that we will be able to re-organise some areas of activity in a way that helps us to deliver the strategic plan and will optimise income generation. However, we will also need to lose some posts as a result.’

He added: ‘Clearly all proposals that may impact on staff will be subject to detailed consultation. This will begin on Monday 8 April.’

In a second email to staff members, also sent on 28 March, Mr Hunt said the college’s leadership team had been looking into how to make savings for some months.

‘Whilst we have made significant progress we are still operating way beyond our means,’ he added. ‘Trustee Board have now authorised me to do some further work on the budget and I am considering options for merging some functions.’

The college said it ‘was in a much better situation than many other organisations’ and had acted ‘prudently’ to close its final salary pension scheme.

A spokesperson said: ‘The college, like many organisations in the current economic climate, is having to make cost savings. We are considering, and consulting on, a number of options for achieving this.’

She confirmed that there were plans to rent out a floor of the college’s headquarters which is surplus to requirements, and said this would be to a ‘health-related professional body’.

‘Discussions are at an advanced stage but not yet concluded so we cannot comment further,’ she said. ‘A formal announcement will be made when contracts are signed.’

The spokesperson also said there were no immediate plans to raise members’ fees: ‘The college is acutely aware of the current financial pressures on its members - many of whom are facing salary decreases in real terms - and works hard to keep increases to a minimum. The subscription notice for this financial year was sent to members in March as usual and there are no plans to raise membership fees beyond the inflationary rises that have been agreed by the Trustee Board and implemented from 1 April 2013. Next year’s subscription level will be set as normal as part of the annual budget process.’

RCGP chair Professor Clare Gerada told Pulse the restructuring would have little impact on members of the profession: ‘GPs can still expect excellent support, excellent CPD - very little will change. It would be ridiculous to put royal medical colleges outside of other organisations that are all having to make tough choices.’

Dr Richard Vautrey, GPC deputy chair and an RCGP Council member, said: ‘All representative organisations are finding it difficult in the current financial climate, leaving them with difficult decisions to make.’

‘It’s important that the RCGP does all it can to make appropriate savings and so avoid putting additional costs on to its members who are also struggling with a probable pay cut following the Government’s interference with the DDRB award.’

Dr John Grenville, medical secretary for Derbyshire LMC, said it was a ‘shame’ that the college had been been forced to look at restructuring due to budgetary concerns.

He said: ‘I hope the college is doing what it can to continue providing support and advice to those who need it.’

But Dr Peter Davies, RCGP Council member and a GP in Yorkshire, said the restructure would make the college stronger.

‘In the long run it’ll be good for the college,’ he said. ‘These sort of reviews happen in every organisation. It’ll be a review of functions, and how we use the money to service general practice.

He added that there should not be any regret about the move to the new headquarters, saying it was one of the best things that had happened to the college.

He added: ‘It allows us to do so much more. It’s not just a building. It’s a platform from which we can enhance the profession’s standing and continue work on behalf of the speciality.’