LMC representatives at the 2018 UK LMCs conference in Liverpool backed the GP partnership model as the most efficient and cost-effective way of delivering general practice.
GPs voted to urge the government to do everything to sustain the model, provide incentives to bring more GPs into partnerships and to do more to keep older GPs in partnerships. GPs rejected calls to do more to encourage non-GPs into partnerships, however.
The motion comes just weeks after GPonline revealed that general practice had lost 700 partners in the last year alone.
Plymouth GP Dr Rachel Ali told the conference that practices were closing in her city, simply because it was too difficult to recruit doctors into partnership roles. These practices were not old-fashioned or unworkable, they simply could not fill vacancies, she warned.
'We are haemorrhaging older GPs,' she said. 'They have had enough with a combination of funding drops, indemnity costs, complaints from various organisations such as the GMC, the courts, the ombudsman, and pensions problems. My city doesn’t have much more time. We need to sort this out, make the solution real and put it in the contract.'
Dr Sarah Westerbeek spoke against the motion, warning that the incentive scheme idea 'missed the point'. 'Many GPs see locuming as the only way to protect themselves from the pressure facing primary care,' she warned - and tempting them back into unsafe working environments with financial inducements would not solve the root problem.
Dr Zishan Syed warned that if general practice wanted younger doctors to 'flock to partnerships, you must address the threat to wellbeing, the dreadful last man standing issue'.
He warned: 'The GMS contract is not fit for purpose – it is a laughable all you can eat model and is draining the lifeblood of UK general practice.'
However, GPC member Dr Helena McKeown argued: 'I urge you not to be divided. She said the motion was about 'making sure we do not all get driven down to lowest common denominator of basic terms of service, least pay for most work'.
Hampshire and Isle of Wight GP Dr Alex Freeman said: 'We are not dismissing sessionals – this is about the partnership model, it's not about the GMS contract or one type of GPs versus another – this is just about sustaining the partnership model because this is important to all of us.'