Union urges creation of 'salaried principals'

A deal to create a salaried principal post to cut exploitation of salaried doctors is being called for by the Medical Practitioners' Union (MPU).

MPU president Dr Ron Singer
MPU president Dr Ron Singer

The plan aims to heal the rift between partners and salaried GPs, amid concerns that sessional doctors are under-represented in the BMA.

MPU president Dr Ron Singer said salaried doctors were seen as ‘second class'.

Creating a ‘salaried principal' status to run alongside existing contract options would improve the status of salaried doctors by blurring the boundary between the two groups. It could also create a national pay scale and career structure, similar to the consultant contract, he said.

‘There is a huge gap between salaried GPs and independent contractors,' he said. ‘If we fill that gap with [salaried principals], the fact that you're salaried becomes an employment status, not a clinical apartheid.'

Dr Singer's practice in Edmonton, north London, operated in this way for seven years until 2007. The partners were directly employed by Enfield PCT, but contracted to manage the practice and its budget as well as to provide medical services.

He said the security of income it brought was a ‘great relief'. The practice has since returned to independent contractor status in line with moves to split PCTs' commissioning and provider roles.

NHS Alliance GMS contract lead Dr David Jenner said salaried principal status may appeal to some. But he warned it could leave practices at risk of primary care organisation interference and budget cuts.

The MPU has spent the last year in talks with the National Association of Sessional GPs (NASGP) over how to improve the lot of salaried doctors.

NASGP chief executive Dr Richard Fieldhouse said that a merger was not under discussion. He said the talks were aimed at increasing awareness of alternative trade unions.

He said GPC chairman Dr Laurence Buckman had done all he could for salaried GPs within an organisation dominated by partners.

But separate negotiating rights for sessional doctors ‘had to be on the table', if Dr Buckman wanted to persuade salaried doctors they were represented in the BMA, he said.

GPC sessional GPs subcommittee chairwoman Dr Vicky Weeks argued that ‘our interests are best served from within the main body of the GPC'.

jonn.elledge@haymarket.com

* Read the full version of this story in this week's GP dated 4 September.

Editor's blog: Could salaried principals stop the profession dividing?

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