Editorial: Does the DoH want independent contractors?

There are many startling findings in this week's exclusive page 1 GP pay survey. Prominent is that while 57 per cent of practices predict profit falls in 2009/10, despite the 2.29 per cent pay rise, a great many of their staff can still expect pay rises.

Just 9 per cent of GPs plan to give staff other than salaried GPs no rise. Partners can congratulate themselves for valuing their staff in a recession. However, the news is less good for salaried GPs as 29 per cent can expect no pay rise.

As GP has previously reported, the rising number of salaried GPs is due in part to the lack of partnerships available to them.

GP's panel of young GPs, the GP35, has been vocal about the need for increasing numbers of partners and the value they would bring to the NHS.

Part of the solution undoubtedly lies with practices and their ability to offer partnerships instead of salaried posts.

A casual flick through the recruitment section of GP in recent weeks shows that this does not appear to be happening. In the light of the number of practices facing income declines, this should not be surprising.

Surely it is up to the government to lead if it values the concept of GPs as independent contractors. Speculation surrounds the resurrection of the Medical Practices Committee and possibly even the use of seniority pay to encourage partnerships.

If the government truly values independent contractor status, it should not sit idly by as practices find they are not in an economic position to offer partnerships. It must take a leading role in encouraging partnership opportunities. Or explain why it is turning its back on independent contractor status.

Salaried employees have always had less freedom to speak out against policies they oppose.

Last month a different GP poll found just a fifth of GPs believe the independent contractor model will survive the next decade. Perhaps the end of independent contractor status would be more convenient for Ben Bradshaw and co.

More opinion online

Read more opinion from the GP editorial team in the editor's blog at www.healthcarerepublic.com/blogs. This is what the team had to say this week

  • Practical lessons from swine flu fever There need to be straightforward answers to questions such as 'what do I do with my clothes after visiting a potential swine flu patient?' This is the type of question GPs had to answer for themselves.
  • Would you like to see AJ as the next PM? He seems to go down well with both GPs and nurses, regardless of anger over pay freezes and a host of other issues. How does he manage it? He seems to have the charisma so many politicians lack.

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