Almost £2 billion 'wasted' on GP contract
By Lilian Anekwe
A damning report has criticised the Government for wasting nearly £2billion on a GP contract that has ‘largely benefited GP partners' and failed to deliver value for money.
The report published today by the National Audit Office found that the new GMS contract cost the Department of Health £1.76billion more than was originally budgeted for.
The overspend was 9.4% more than the Treasury had budgeted to spend, and £406 million more than the total amount of funding that was allocated to PCTs to fund the new contract.
Productivity has fallen by an average of 2.5% per cent a year since 2004, the report concluded. It added that – partly due to the removal of responsibility for out of hours care – GPs are working an average of seven hours a week fewer than in 1992.
While both the number and length of general practice consultations had increased since 2004, the increases were not in proportion to the extra cost of the contract.
Much of the overspend was down to the ‘underestimation of the amount that GPs would earn from the pay for performance scheme'. This led to an annual average salary of £113,614 for a full-time partner – an increase of 58% since 2002/3.
Karen Taylor, director of the NAO's health value for money audit, said GPs had delivered in areas covered by the QOF, but it was still too early to tell if improvements had been achieved for overall patient care.
She added: ‘As far as the public and the taxpayer are concerned the benefits that they were expecting to see from the new GP contract have not materialised as yet, and so from their point of view it has not been a good deal.'
GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman said: ‘The overspend on the contract is not the fault of GPs – the BMA repeatedly told the Government that GPs would exceed the targets they had set them.
‘It was also well known that GPs had been subsidising out-of-hours care out of their own pockets, so the money taken away from them was never going to cover the costs of running the new service.'
Alastair Henderson, acting director of NHS Employers, said: ‘We knew it would take some time for the contract to bed in, and it is still early days, but we have made some significant progress in the last few years and patients are seeing the benefits.'
Professor Steve Field, chair of the RCGP, said the report highlighted a number of improvements in the quality of patient care and also in the access that patients had to GPs and other members of the primary health care teams.
He added: 'We are concerned that three years after responsibility for out of hours care passed to PCTs patients are still confused and find it difficult to access care out of hours.'NHS pay modernisation: New contracts for General Practice Services in England NHS pay modernisation: New contracts for General Practice Services in England
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