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£50m extra clinical funds delayed by BMA pay challenge

By Nigel Praities

The BMA's legal challenge over the Government's decision to freeze the MPIG has jeopardised talks with NHS Employers over £50m of extra funding for new clinical work.

Emboldened by the recent victory over pensions, the BMA is refusing to accept moves to award GPs just a 0.2% increase in overall global sum funding this year – because they say it contravenes a guarantee to uplift the MPIG annually by the same percentage as the global sum.

The extraordinary step halts implementation of the pay award and has also seen negotiations collapse over £50m of investment in new clinical work.

BMA chair Dr Hamish Meldrum wrote in a letter to health secretary Alan Johnson that the planned award for GPs was ‘not legally deliverable'.

The BMA says ministers have ignored guarantees in the GMS contract that the correction factor was guaranteed ‘in perpetuity', after accepting recommendations from the pay review body that global sum payments should rise by 2.7% but the MPIG be frozen.

Under the award, the 90% of practices reliant on the MPIG will receive no rise in funding.

GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman said GPs had voted to accept the GMS contract in 2003 on the basis of promises from NHS Employers: ‘They constitute a legally binding framework that can't retrospectively be altered.'

He refused to commit himself to a full-scale legal challenge, but said: ‘We have just had a discussion with lawyers that cost a huge amount of money [over pensions], so now we are having discussions about this.'

The new development puts the GP pay award on hold and jeopardises talks with NHS Employers over £50m of extra funding for new clinical work.

Negotiators told Pulse the two sides were discussing DES funding for the new clinical work – initially for one year only – with some money for local arrangements. Discussions have now been suspended.

NHS Employers said the BMA's ‘unusual' action would harm some practices. ‘It is unfortunate as the 2.7% global sum uplift will benefit those practices in areas of highest deprivation who generally don't benefit from the MPIG,' said a spokesperson.

The Department of Health said it would respond ‘in due course' after considering the implications of the BMA's move, which received a mixed reaction from GPs.

Dr Alun Cooper, a GP in Crawley, West Sussex, and part of the QOF osteoporosis evidence review, said he was ‘extremely frustrated' politics was delaying clinical funding: ‘The BMA and Government should stop posturing and help patients.'

But other GPs supported the hardening of the BMA's line. Dr John Efstratiou, a GP in Norwich, said the BMA should have been tougher from the start. ‘The Government sees us as a soft touch,' he said.

Dr Laurence Buckman: MPIG promises are legally binding Dr Laurence Buckman: MPIG promises are legally binding

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