The BMA’s GPC Sessional GP Subcommittee has pulled off a major coup by getting its plan to change the way Sessional GPs are represented on the GPC past its first hurdle by having it accepted by the GPC – completely unscathed! Currently, Sessional GPs are under-represented and so our employers are making political decisions for us, despite the obvious conflict of interest in employers representing their own employees. These changes however, if all goes well, could mean, for the first time in the BMA’s history, that salaried and locum GPs have at least some autonomy within the BMA. Not quite independent representation, but it’s a leap in the right direction.
Because of the scale of some of the plan’s proposed changes, it still has to go through a series of committees, from the GPC’s Financial Committee, BMA committee, the conference of LMCs in June and the BMA Annual Representatives Meeting.
Assuming all of that goes as intended – and there certainly seems to be a palpable appetite for a change in the way Sessional GPs are represented on the GPC from all sides – we can expect to see some significant changes.
The most fundamental change will be that the Sessional GP subcommittee, for the first time, will have ‘formal delegated authority to act on matters that relate wholly or primarily to sessional GPs’. In a word, autonomy from the rest of the committee, representing a sea-change from the current system where all business involving changes to Sessional GPs has to be passed via the main committee.
In order to discharge its new powers, the GPC has also agreed to double the size of its committee to 16 members, to increase the number of meetings to 4 a year and to appoint its own executive committee. Members of the sub-committee will continue to be elected from across the UK, with new provision to ensure that representatives are elected from 12 geographical regions and that the subcommittee contains both salaried and freelance GPs.
What some may see as contentious is that only 4 spaces will be guaranteed for Sessional GPs on the main GPC committee (the spaces which exist at present). However, the current situation is that the GPC only co-opts 4 sessional GPs on an informal basis, so the new arrangement will cast this in stone. Additionally, there is absolutely nothing to stop any Sessional GPs who wish from applying for the elections, held every year, for one third of the regional seats on the GPC.
On the assumption that this is all going to pass successfully by all the necessary political processes of the BMA, perhaps the only potential fly in the ointment remains in what actually happens outside the GPC – namely, us sessional GPs. After years of emasculation and disenfranchisement, and an underlying collective cultural sense of not being ‘proper GPs’, Sessional GPs need to realise what a positive career choice working as a locum or salaried GP can be, and what a vital role we play in delivering primary care. One really proactive step, therefore, that each of us can take is to contact our Local Medical Committee. I’m not suggesting that you serve on its committee, simply to register your support and ask them what they can do for you. Although many of us may perceive LMCs as a bunch of stuffy old grey fuddy-duddys in their current form, they actually serve a statutory role directly between the individual GP and the GPC and are simply the embodiment of our own local demographic. LMCs are, very much, simply what we want them to be and, for us as GPs (assuming the Sessional GP Sub-committee manages to get its plan passed through all the relevant committees) it will become increasingly hard not to blame ourselves for their potential shortcomings. A great first step would be for you to lobby your LMC to support the GPC’s paper on its way through all these various committees.
The NASGP is relieved that the GPC has begun this process of emancipating its representation of Sessional GPs, but also realises that it’s not yet all in the bag. The BMA still has bridges to mend when it comes to the representation of salaried GPs in practice disputes; many Sessional GPs will need a lot of persuading that the BMA/GPC have their best interests in mind and are still capable on delivering this new Plan; and a huge amount still needs to be done to reverse the learned helplessness that so many Sessional GPs experience. Not that any of that should stop us Sessional GPs being open to the new GPC plan, and we all look forward to the hope of change that the full adoption of this plan could signify.