One of the country’s leading GPs has advised the health secretary to ensure younger doctors are incentivised to get involved in commissioning, or risk losing them to the private sector.

Although the majority of GPs are still partners in practices, a growing number of younger doctors – especially women – are becoming salaried or sessional GPs.

Speaking at the Royal College of GPs annual conference in Harrogate today, college chair Steve Field said he had privately warned health secretary Andrew Lansley that ignoring salaried doctors would risk cutting off the supply of future clinical leaders to the NHS.

Many salaried GPs could be drawn instead to large private companies offering better salaries, he told delegates in a conference debate on the white paper.

Professor Field said: “One of the things coming back from young doctors, particularly salaried doctors, is that they feel left out of the current system. They feel as though they aren’t going to have a role in the new system because the partners always take that.

“Unless the PCTs look laterally and fund some of the salaried doctors to help in the new commissioning groups, you are going to have an increasing minority, and then majority, of doctors who will be disenfranchised.”

Professor Field told delegates he had raised the issue personally with Mr Lansley: “I said to him ‘this is your opportunity…. to reach out to an increasing majority of doctors who need your help’.”

Dr Clare Gerada, who takes over from Professor Field as RCGP chair next month, pledged also to prioritise the issue, suggesting she would take on PCTs or consortia that did not give opportunities to salaried and younger doctors.

She said: “My sense is we absolutely must be promoting leadership opportunities for the next generation of GPs. Otherwise we’ve lost the plot.

“If we don’t do that we’ve got a whole cadre of GPs out there who we’re not tapping into for talent and experience.”

She told delegates: “Please let me know personally if there are examples of where you are not allowed to engage and I promise I will take it up.”

Mr Lansley is due to address the RCGP conference tomorrow in what he is understood to consider his most important audience this year – including that at his own party conference.