Representation of sessional GPs

by Nicola Kemp

How your voices are heard within the BMA

Location: UK
Last reviewed: 22 October 2020
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Many of the questions we received at a recent webinar on locum GPs related to how the sessional committee works with the BMA GPs committee and BMA and how local medical committees represent sessional GPs.

We thought it would be helpful to give an overview of the representation of GPs, and in particular sessional GPs within the BMA. Please read our synopsis below, and see our salaried GPs and locum GPs handbooks for further information.

National representation

The BMA: The BMA is the professional association of doctors in the UK and is registered as an independent trade union to represent doctors both locally and nationally. Officially recognised by the Doctors and Dentists Review Body (DDRB), the government and NHS Employers, the BMA has sole negotiating rights for all GPs contracted by the NHS under national agreements, irrespective of whether or not they are members.

GPC: The BMA GPC UK represents all NHS GPs. It consists of approximately 90 members from across the UK. The GPC has sole negotiating rights with the Department of Health for all GPs working under the GMS (General Medical Services) contract. The GPC is also consulted on issues concerning the whole of the GP profession.

There are also national general practitioners committees for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. As a result of devolution, the committees negotiate directly with their respective governments on issues affecting general practice in their countries.

The GPC has representatives on other BMA committees, including BMA council (the central executive of the BMA), as well as maintaining relations with external organisations.

Sessional GPs committee: The sessional GPs committee is a subcommittee of the GPC and a democratic body that represents all salaried and locum GPs throughout the UK. It has been in existence since 1997 and was previously known as the non-principals subcommittee. It deals with issues that affect all types of sessional doctors.

The sessional GPs committee consists of 16 elected members who are elected on a UK-wide basis by salaried and locum GPs. A GPC negotiator and a GPC member, both with a special interest in salaried and locum GPs, are also involved.

The subcommittee is represented on the main GPC. It currently has four dedicated seats on the GPC, while a number of other GPC members are also salaried or locum GPs.

Further information can be found on the sessional GP subcommittee. This includes key issues and links to further guidance.

Local representation

LMCs (local medical committees): LMCs in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are recognised in statute as the local representative body of GPs, including sessional GPs.

Scotland: LMCs and area medical committees: In Scotland the situation differs. Scottish LMCs only represent local GPs on matters relating to their remuneration and conditions of service. Local GP negotiation with the Scottish PCOs on the general operation and funding of primary care services is undertaken by the AMC (area medical committee) of the PCO and the AMC’s GP subcommittee. The AMC’s GP subcommittee is made up of GP members.

All LMCs throughout the UK are able to influence GPC policy through the annual conference of LMCs and through their direct liaison with GPC members and secretariat. LMCs can also ensure that their local NHS authorities, deaneries and GP tutors are aware of sessional GPs’ educational needs and the need to disseminate relevant information to these local doctors.

Representation of sessional GPs on LMCs: All salaried GPs are automatically represented by the LMC that covers the area where they work, provided that they contribute to the LMC’s statutory or voluntary levy. Often the employing practice will pay the salaried GP’s levy, but if they do not then salaried GPs may be required to pay a contribution to the LMC in order to join.  A locum GP may need to contribute to the levy to join the LMC. There is local variation but the fees are usually nominal.

Sessional GPs are encouraged to contact their LMC to find out how to become involved and to ensure that they are on their LMC’s mailing list.

The BMA works closely with LMCs, and contact details for LMCs can be found on the BMA website. Membership of the BMA is distinct from that of the LMC, so please ensure that your LMC has your contact details.

Nicola Kemp is a sessional GPs executive committee member