Extend £20k golden hello offer to former GP partners, say LMCs

£20,000 'golden hellos' offered through the 2020 GP contract should be available to doctors who have previously held partnership roles as well as those taking on the posts for the first time, LMCs have said.

At a special conference of England LMCs in London, GP leaders backed a motion that called for the payment to be made available to anyone taking on a partnership role - and said that the payment should be tax-free.

Delegates at the conference also unanimously backed a motion that called for the GPC to ensure that a new fellowship programme for newly-qualified GPs, also announced as part of the 2020 GP contract, does not become mandatory or a 'backdoor' route to extended training.

According to the GP contract deal for 2020/21, from 1 April 2020, GPs taking up partnership roles for the first time will be eligible for a £3,000 training allowance - plus a £20,000 golden hello payment. The funding will be available on a pro-rata basis, with full-time GPs - calculated as 37.5 hours per week - eligible for the full payment.

The contract documents say that the payment is 'initially a loan' - but that 'we envisage that it will automatically convert to a permanent payment after an expected minimum number of years, for example five'.

Tax-free payment

GPC executive member Dr Krishna Kasaraneni said the GPC was still working on exactly how the payment would work. He said: 'If we make it a longer payment over five or six years then it could be tax-free, but it will be taxed if it is a three-year payment, so that's why it's structured in that way.'

Dr Vipan Bhardwaj from Berkshire LMC, who proposed the motion, argued that if the payment was taxed it could eventually work out at around just £1 an hour for a GP working a 50-hour week.

He said: 'Personally I regard that amount and the strings attached as risible and frankly insulting. NHS England and the government have wholly misunderstood the gravity of the situation and the existential crisis facing general practice – or perhaps for reasons of their own they don’t care.

'Ours is a profession dying by 1,000 cuts. I see little resuscitation potential in these measures. Incentive needs to genuinely respond to the gravity of the situation and we need to send GPC back to the negotiating table with a clear mandate that we refuse to accept insults masquerading as incentives.'

GP fellowship programme

According to the contract deal the new two-year fellowship scheme will offer all newly-qualified GPs the chance to take up employment at a specific practice or primary care network (PCN). From 2021 GP trainees will automatically be enrolled in the scheme and expected to enter the programme on qualification.

Dr Samira Anane, GPC policy lead for education and workforce, said she believed fellowship could provide a good opportunity for newly-qualified GPs. However she said that it should not be seen as an extension of GP training. 'It needs to be voluntary,' she added, saying that the merits of the scheme alone should be what encourages newly-qualified GPs to take part.

She said that the BMA was working with NHS England and the RCGP to develop the guidance that would support the scheme. However, she said if it was to be available universally it would need 'a lot of funding'.

Read the motion on golden hellos in full: 

AGENDA COMMITTEE TO BE PROPOSED BY BERKSHIRE: That conference welcomes the new partner financial incentive, and calls on GPC England to:

(i) negotiate for it to be made available to all new partners including those who have been in partnership before

(ii) work with relevant stakeholders to ensure that appropriate training options are commissioned to maximise the use of the business training allowance

(iii) negotiate that it only be tied to remaining as a partner for three years (iv) negotiate that it be tax free.

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