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As I lamented last month, we still don't have a functioning devolved government here in Northern Ireland, so there is little new to talk about. Apparently, we have been given an extra few hundred million quid that materialised from a previously secret money tree, and it will be interesting to see how this is spent. I will be pleasantly surprised if much of it makes its way to primary care services.
You may have seen the recent advert for salaried GPs to work in Bannview, now being run by the Southern Health and Social Care Trust, apparently on an APMS (alternative provider of medical services) contract, so I thought it might be useful to go over some of the contractual issues regarding salaried GPs.
Salaried GPs are considered to be sessional GPs, and therefore are represented by the sessional GPs subcommittee, as well as being represented by the NIGPC (Northern Ireland GPs committee) and your LMC. People have various reasons for wanting to work as a salaried GP, and there are over 100 in Northern Ireland.
Salaried GPs are employed by someone who provides primary care services, which in Northern Ireland is generally a practice with a GMS (general medical services) contract. Any salaried GP employed by a GMS practice since 1 April 2004 has to be offered the BMA negotiated model contract as a minimum, though practices are welcome to offer any improvement on these terms and conditions – these cover all aspects of employment, including pay and hours.
If anyone has accepted a contract after 2004 that does not meet this minimum standard, I would suggest you speak to the practice, or speak to the BMA Northern Ireland, NIGPC, or your LMC for advice. Anyone with a salaried contract with an OOH provider should also consider contacting the same groups if you have any queries or problems with your employment.
Anyone taking a job at an APMS practice isn't protected by the same contractual obligation to offer any minimum standard of terms and conditions. The BMA still recommends that an APMS practice should offer the model contract, and I would urge anyone considering applying for a job in an APMS practice to view the model contract as the minimum they should expect.
As this is a new development in Northern Ireland, it’s difficult to predict how things will work exactly, but we will be keeping an eye on the situation to ensure all our GPs are adequately protected and represented. It’s also worth noting that taking on general practice is a new step for a trust in Northern Ireland. I've only seen the information given in the job advert, and not the contract that will be offered, so I don't know what terms and conditions will be offered.
Anyone considering a salaried job should have a look at the BMA website, and the detailed handbook that includes a huge amount of information – not only about a contract, but about all aspects of being a salaried GP.
The BMA also offer a free contract checking service.
As always, I'm happy to try and answer any questions, or discuss any aspects of sessional work in Northern Ireland – please contact me at [email protected], or you could also post on the GP Survival Northern Ireland Facebook page, and benefit from the wisdom of many more experienced than I am.
Conan Castles is sessional GPs subcommittee representative for Northern Ireland