Time for associates to break free?

Back in August, an article appeared in the GP magazine Pulse about salaried GPs considering splitting from British Medical Association (BMA).
They threatened to go off and join the BMA’s smaller rival, the Medical Practitioners’ Union. Sessional GPs – the equivalent of dental associates – were determined to end what they saw as the ‘inherent conflict’ in the BMA representing both partners and the doctors they employ.
Apart from this, their two main gripes appear to be that salaried GPs have not joined in the pay bonanza handed out to the GPs in their new contract, and their chances of getting a partnership are zilch. I hope I do not misrepresent their position but I was drawn to the similarity that exists in our profession.

Despite their bleatings, many dental practice owners have done very well financially out of the contract. The earnings published a couple of months back showed practice owners with associates had net earnings of £126,807, compared with associates on £65,697. Many associates have seen no rise in their earnings for the last three pay rounds.

Furthermore, if they move practice they almost certainly will go on to a lower UDA value.
The Review Body’s only comment on associates, who are 60% of their remit group, was: ‘The question of the link between the contract uplift and the performer’s earnings is a matter of local negotiation between the provider and the performer.’

The BDA was worse; it completely ignored 60% of the members it claims to represent. Practice owners receive a fixed sum every month irrespective of the work they do; most associates are paid by the UDA and so their income fluctuates.

They have little chance of being awarded a contract in the future and becoming their own boss, unless they take one like the Warburton contract with more strings than a cat’s cradle. In short, they have little chance of professional advancement.

What does the BDA, or its general practice committee, do about this situation? Very little.
The committees are dominated by practice owners. I may be pleasantly surprised to see them standing up for associates in their Review Body evidence, but I doubt it, as the practice owners, not the government, will have to open their wallets.

Perhaps, when associates realise how far they have been sold down the river they will form a breakaway union like the medics.

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