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Junior contract changes would scupper GP recruitment plans

RCGP demands ‘cast iron guarantee’ that junior doctors’ contract changes will not affect GPs

Louise Prime

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

The Royal College of GPs has demanded a ‘cast iron guarantee’ from Jeremy Hunt that he will not allow his proposals to impose the new contract on junior doctors to adversely affect the pay and conditions of GP trainees – as otherwise, said the College, the government would miss its target of recruiting 5,000 new GPs.

The RCGP has launched an online petition in which it calls on the health secretary to “give a cast iron guarantee to trainee general practitioners that any new contract for junior doctors will not have a detrimental effect on pay and conditions of medical graduates choosing general practice, and provide clarification about how the proposals will work in practice, particularly in light of the proposed removal of salary supplements that GPs receive during their training.”

It warned that cutting salary supplements will act as a financial disincentive to trainee doctors, resulting in fewer graduates choosing general practice. It said this would prevent the Government from achieving its target of increasing the number of GPs by 5,000 by 2020, as well as having a negative impact on the ability of GPs to provide safe, high quality care to their patients.

RCGP chair Professor Maureen Baker also wrote to the health secretary warning him that alarm about the situation is growing among GP trainees and medics considering their career options, as well as everyone concerned about the profession’s future. She said: “This has been further heightened since my previous letter [in August] by the news that the Government is intending to impose new contract terms on junior doctors. Far from encouraging more people into the profession, there is a real danger that the result will be to drive a coach and horses through our joint recruitment efforts, making your target of 5,000 more GPs by 2020 impossible to achieve.”

She has asked in particular for clarification on:

  • What the new basic level of pay will be for a GP trainee;
  • The level of the recruitment and retention premium and whether this will be equivalent to the current GP trainee supplement;
  • Whether the premium will cover all GP trainees, regardless of location;
  • Whether the premium will remain in place for all future GP trainees; and
  • Whether those in other specialities who choose to retrain in general practice will continue to benefit from pay protection, so that they are not penalised financially as a result of their decision.

Dr Baker said: “GP trainees are vital to the future of general practice and the NHS as a whole and we must do everything possible to support and value them. Yet there is growing confusion and alarm about their situation … The Government now needs to move quickly to plug the information vacuum by sending out a clear message that no GP trainee will be worse off under the new arrangements than under the GP trainee supplement.”

Last Friday, Welsh Government officials issued a statement to BMA Wales that, rather than follow the approach being taken in England, it will retain the current junior doctor contract in Wales “and only move towards negotiations when the time is right”. Chair of the junior doctor committee in Wales Dr Bethan Roberts responded: “I am delighted that the Welsh Government have decided, in line with the position in Scotland, to continue with the current contract for junior doctors in Wales, instead of following the UK Government and imposing a new contract on junior doctors in England which is both unsafe and unfair … An imposed contract would have been hugely detrimental to both junior doctors and the NHS.”

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