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BMA brings measure of calm to salaried-partner dispute

By Richard Hoey

Rebels have struck a concilatory tone in response to the GPC's plans, but there remain tensions within the GP jobs market, says Pulse editor By Richard Hoey

Last August, general practice was in some turmoil.

Several years of rising tensions between partners and salaried GPs had just burst to the surface, with Pulse's revelation that the National Association of Sessional GPs was in talks over a dramatic split from the BMA.

Our One Voice campaign, launched in response to those tensions, made a trio of demands to unify the profession, one of which was an ‘open debate and vote on options for strengthening representation of sessional GPs within the BMA'.

And that, it appears, is now going to happen, with the LMCs conference set to vote on a sweeping series of reforms proposed by the GPC this week.

The plan is to double the size of the sessional GPs subcommittee to 16 members. They won't get their own negotiating committtee, but are set to be handed more autonomy in negotiations, so they can act on matters ‘wholly or primarily relating to sessional GPs'.

The NASGP, on its blog, sounds reasonably appeased, saying it is ‘relieved the GPC has begun the process of emancipating its representation of sessional GPs', while realising ‘it's not yet all in the bag'.

Not wild enthusiasm, but a reasonably positive response, given just a couple of months ago the organisation was laying plans for a summit meeting to encourage sessional GPs into the arms of the Medical Practitioners' Union.

The future unity of general practice will now depend on two factors.

First, it will require salaried GPs and locums to notice a real difference on the ground through the BMA's proposals, in the form of improved representation at LMC level. The NASGP is cautious on this, saying ‘the BMA still has bridges to mend when it comes to the representation of salaried GPs in practice disputes'.

And secondly, there still needs to be a solution to the broader problem, of a lack of career opportunities for young GPs because of a shortage of partnerships.

Pulse will be pushing the new Government on whether it will consider incentives to encourage recruitment of GP partners, as the Lib Dems supported pre-election.

Federations too could offer improved career opportunities for salaried doctors, although they could also further drive the creation of salaried positions rather than partnerships.

For now, then, the turmoil is calmed. But no one is pretending that the storm has passed.

By Richard Hoey, Pulse editor