Exclusive: GPs predict end of contractor status

Just 20 per cent of GPs think contractor status will survive the next decade.

Just a fifth of GPs believe the independent contractor model of general practice will survive the next decade, a GP newspaper poll has found.

But opinion is split over who is to blame for the rising number of salaried GPs unable to find partnerships, identified by the GPC as the biggest threat facing the profession.

'It is clear that the aim of the government is to make all GPs salaried sooner or later,' wrote one respondent, while another claimed: 'Fat-cat GPs are destroying general practice.'

The survey of 423 GPs found that just 9 per cent would prefer an all-salaried service, but 80 per cent either thought independent contractor status would be lost in 10 years' time, or were unsure.

GPC chairman Dr Laurence Buckman said the situation was urgent, but was confident independent contractor status would not disappear in a decade.

'GPs feel continually under threat and nothing has changed in the past year to persuade them otherwise,' he said.

Dr Buckman said the GPC was taking steps to ensure the next generation of GPs was not all-salaried. 'We are all concerned about partnerships. That is why we are discussing how we can encourage practices to take on partners.'

The GPC has begun negotiations with the DoH to re-establish some functions of the now-defunct Medical Practices Committee, abolished in 2003.

It hopes partially reviving the committee, which judged whether practices could take on new doctors and encouraged expansion in under doctored areas, could create a lever to create partnerships.

In 2007/8 a third of GPs were salaried, compared with just 12 per cent in 2004/5, recent figures show (GP, 19 March).

The majority (76 per cent) of respondents to the GP newspaper poll agreed with an RCGP report last month that an all-salaried service would create a 'jobsworth' culture, in which GPs are reluctant to get involved in non-clinical aspects of general practice.

'Going the extra mile in helping patients, as opposed to ticking the right boxes, is becoming rare. The climate of general practice is becoming hostile to care,' wrote one GP.

But another respondent said there was 'nothing to be gained from the independent contractor system in the modern world - except perhaps the exploitation of younger GPs'.

Fears of a divide between salaried GPs and partners are likely to be a key issue at this year's LMCs conference in June.

tom.ireland@haymarket.com

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