By Gareth Iacobucci
Exclusive: Rebels seeking to create a rival union to the BMA for salaried GPs and locums will call a summit of potential members within months after questioning whether the GPC’s efforts to accommodate their views could ever be sufficient.
The Medical Practitioners’ Union and the National Association of Sessional GPs will jointly stage a conference for salaried GPs and locums to thrash out a package of benefits for those who choose to join.
The ground-breaking event follows Pulse’s revelation last August that the NASGP was in talks with the MPU over formally recommending it to its members as a union capable of taking on the BMA in contract talks.
Threats of a split prompted the BMA to launch an internal investigation into its representation of salaried GPs and locums, with a major survey of their views due to be published by the GPC within weeks.
But Pulse has learned that summit organisers will ensure attendees who are in dispute with their practices over pay and conditions will have access to legal advice, after claiming even the GPC’s best efforts will not be sufficient to keep the profession together.
Our One Voice campaign last year argued the only solution to a split was incentives to encourage practices to take on new partners – a recommendation now accepted by the BMA and also advocated by the Liberal Democrats.
Dr Richard Fieldhouse, chief executive of the NASGP and MPU representative on the GPC, conceded that the BMA had responded to dissatisfaction among sessional GPs, but said it could not resolve its inherent bias towards partners.
‘No matter how brilliantly the BMA can manoeuvre themselves and say “we are being really careful”, I don’t think anything is going to reassure sessional GPs that they are properly represented. It just doesn’t work.’
Dr Fieldhouse acknowledged the MPU – a division of Britain’s largest union, Unite – had not yet delivered a sufficiently detailed benefits package to spark a mass exodus from the BMA, but said he hoped the conference would create ‘a mandate for sessional GPs’.
‘We have to keep pursuing independent representation,’ he said.
Dr Ron Singer, president of the MPU and a GP in Edmonton, north London, said it had been gaining ‘a regular trickle’ of new members since details of its talks with the NASGP emerged, but admitted it had to do more to entice salaried GPs.
He said: ‘We’re holding the conference to ask salaried GPs what services they want. We’ll then be able to tailor-make whatever is appropriate.’
Dr Singer said GPs would benefit from Unite’s ‘huge’ understanding of employment law, tribunals and contracting between individuals: ‘It would be a straightforward relationship between the union representative and the GP partner employer. No mucking about, no conflict of interest.’
But Dr Beth McCarron-Nash, GPC negotiator and a salaried GP in Cornwall, said it was vital the profession stayed united during ‘a difficult time for general practice’.
‘I’d like to see us joining together, rather than risk splintering the profession and weakening our negotiations with the Government.’
Dr Rajeev Kaja, a salaried GP in Luton and a member of the NASGP, said he would consider joining the MPU – which costs £199.40 – as he had found it ‘difficult to engage’ with the BMA: ‘They represent both sides – that is a problem.’
Dr Rajeev Kaja: Will consider MPU proposals after finding it ‘difficult to engage’ with the BMA Dr Rajeev Kaja: Will consider MPU proposals after finding it ‘difficult to engage’ with the BMA