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GP leaders reject call to explore salaried only status

GP leaders have rejected a motion for the GPC to explore a move away from the independent contractor status.

In a heated debate at the Special LMC conference, GP leaders presented arguments for and against a future where all GPs would be salaried to the NHS.

The motion suggested that because ‘many younger GPs currently prefer to be salaried rather than partners’, the GPC should look at ‘future contractual models’ which ‘explore all options including movement away from independent contractor status’.

Presenting the motion, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Oxfordshire LMC chief executive Dr Paul Roblin said it merely suggested the GPC explore all options. Despite this, there was strong sentiment against the proposal.

Dr Roblin said the time had come to explore the fully salaried option because ’many GPs now prefer employed status’, quite unlike the sentiment following the introduction of the 2004 new GMS contract, since which GPs have been ‘portrayed as fatcats’ by politicians and the media.

He said: ’So we have seen a change, and the key issue for me is that partnership has become unpopular – being an employer is unpopular – for all the reasons that I think we all know too well: difficulty in recruitment, bureaucracy, annual changes to the contract and overregulation and the degree of risk that becoming a partner entails – particularly committing to building leases, committing yourself financially.

’For all these reasons, younger doctors are wary of seeking partnership and the older doctors are exiting the profession at a rate I have not seen before in my life.’

Also speaking for the motion, Dr Thomas Micklewright from the GPC education and training subcommittee said he had ’no intention of becoming a GP partner in my lifetime’.

He said: ’As it stands, as I see it, a salaried service could provide contractual limits on unsafe working conditions. It could allow for investment in post-CCT training with paid study leave equal to secondary care doctors, and would force politicians to finally take responsibility for the workload crisis that they have created.’

But speaking against the motion, Doncaster LMC medical secretary Dr Dean Eggitt suggested the mere suggestion was a ‘bomb’ that would explode and abolish general practice as the ‘bedrock’ of the NHS.

He said: ’We are not fighting for our livelihood but for the health of the nation, and this motion is a hidden bomb to that bedrock… To actively participate in a move towards a greater salaried model is not only the active giveaway of our goodwill and efficiency that is keeping the NHS afloat, but is the giveaway of our colleagues to private providers.

’Let’s call this motion for what it is, it is a move towards en masse, giving away of elf-employed status and becoming salaried to whomever is left, and loss of the efficiency and goodwill of the system.’

It is not the first time LMCs have voted on the possibility of all GPs going salaried, with the option of retaining the independent contractor status also being favoured at previous conferences.

However, a recent Pulse survey suggested that GP support for a move to a salaried service is increasing, with 26% now in favour and just over half (54%) opposed.

Ahead of the conference, the union Unite said in a statement that its GP members would be ’supporting the motion that asks the GPC of the BMA to investigate expanding the salaried GPs sector as the best way of stopping health secretary Jeremy Hunt imposing detrimental contractual changes on the GP profession’.

GPs in Scotland are already moving ‘as close as possible’ to a salaried service as part of the devolved health economy’s new contract model.

The motion in full

OXFORDSHIRE: That conference believes that many younger GPs currently prefer to be salaried rather than partners, and that in looking at future contractual models, the GPC Executive Team should explore all options including movement away from independent contractor status.