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Industrial action on pensions? Next contract is battle to fight

Readers of this blog will probably know that I am married to a GP, and this past weekend we celebrated my niece's wedding in style, a fantastic party with family and friends.

On three separate occasions my poor wife had to leave the party to attend poorly guests, a lady who collapsed, another elderly lady who badly cut herself and finally to dress a wound. Watching this as an observer, there was a general presumption that the doctor in the room would just deal with this.

No-one asked the tax driver if he minded running the collapsed lady back to Loughton, no-one asked the solicitor to have a look at the old lady’s will – of course not. You might say that you can’t compare the seriousness of these issues, but the hotel had their own first aid staff, and the paramedics were not far away, but watching the reactions of the guests, there was an expectation that the doctor would deal with this

My question, is whether that has an effect on people's perception of the value of the GP. A client of mine published an evidential and academic-based piece in the Daily Mail last week but if you look at the readers' comments (which I have just noticed have been withdrawn) they are so depressing – referring to GPs as work shy, with simple jobs and all of course earning many hundreds of thousands of pounds.

At the end of last week, I prepared some calculations for a two partner PMS GP practice that I look after, which is having £125,000 removed from its baseline over the next two years. This means that each GP will have a profit share of £61,000 and frankly, I can’t see them carrying on.

That brings me around to the proposed industrial action on GP pensions. I have done some projections that show that a 50-year-old GP paying 14.5% for their employee contributions on a profit share of £100,000 and living until age 80 will have a positive return of £8,250 for that year's contribution, the same GP putting the same contribution into a personal pension will have a negative return of £3,775.

Even at 14.5% employee contribution rate the superannuation scheme is going to deliver a good pension, but it will cost more.

My grandmother had a number of wise sayings, 'if you collect the pennies……..all you will end up with is pennies – forget them, go for the pounds' and 'if you need to have a fight, pick your fights wisely'. I can’t help wonder if the proposed industrial action is a fight not worth having. Neither over the issue itself, nor for the perception it will foster. My feeling is that the next 'new contract' is the battle to fight.

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