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Partners ‘becoming more cost-effective’ than salaried GPs

By Christian Duffin, Ian Quinn

Exclusive: Practices are increasingly finding it more cost-effective to take on a new partner than a salaried GP as the pay gap between the two branches of the profession narrows sharply, Pulse can reveal.

Medical accountants believe that growing numbers of practices are choosing to recruit partners partly because of the pay changes, but also because they are wary of the economic climate and believe extra partners will provide more security through sharing risk.

The latest figures from the NHS Information Centre show that the average income of UK salaried GPs rose each year from 2005/6 to 2008/9, from £46,602 to £55,700, while the average income of GMS partners fell each consecutive year over the same period, from £106,312 to £99,200. More recent figures have yet to be published, but medical accountants believe the gap has narrowed even further since.

Bob Senior, chair of the Association of Independent Specialist Medical Accountants and director of medical services at RSM Tenon, told Pulse: ‘A lot of partners have woken up to the fact that the BMA model contract means that they don't get as good value from salaried GPs, especially now that the gap is closing in pay.'

‘A lot of practices have started to realise this, although it's important they recruit people who bring a real level of commitment with them, not just turn to salaried GPs and ask if they want to be made a partner for financial reasons.'

Rosemary Smith, from RS Medical Accountancy, said: ‘It's a funny market. Two or three years ago everybody was going down the salaried route, because profits were beginning to reduce, and it was a way of maintaining income for existing partners.'

‘Now, however, taking on a partner is being seen as a way of keeping profits up. Salaried doctors do not share in running the surgery – they just go in, do the job and then go back home – so the underlying problems are put on the partners. Having an extra partner means you can share the anxieties.'

Dr Clarissa Fabre, a GP in East Sussex and member of the BMA practice finance subcommittee, said: 'I'm surprised by this change, but it's wonderful news. It's an unintended consequence of the Government reducing pay for GPs over the last few years. I hope we move away from the two-tier system of salaried GPs and partners because most salaried GPs do want to become partners.'

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