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GPs have condemned the GPC for failing to help them claim up to £3,000 in unpaid PGEA funding.

LMCs reported large numbers of inquiries this week from GPs who believe they are entitled to the money. They say they are waiting for GPC guidance before giving advice.

The claims follow in the wake of a landmark legal ruling in favour of London GP Dr Cornell Fleming who had been denied the cash by Islington PCT (see below).

But the GPC has said it cannot offer general guidance to GPs on how to claim or support doctors' individual cases.

Dr Hamish Meldrum, GPC chair, said claims would have to be dealt with 'on an indvidual basis' by each GP.

He also sought to downplay the significance of Dr Fleming's victory.

Dr Meldrum said GPs in PMS practices and those who joined the profession after 1990/1 ­ the first year of PGEA ­ would not be able to claim. He added that the GPC had evidence that payment in arrears was not universal.

'Just because one doctor has won a case it doesn't mean it will apply to everybody,' Dr Meldrum said. 'I don't want to raise expectations that everybody is entitled to £3,000 as that is not the case.'

Islington PCT refused to pay PGEA for 2003/4, claiming the money had been paid in-year. But the judge upheld Dr Fleming's line that he had been paid in arrears.

The Small Practices Association criticised the GPC for underestimating the problem.

Dr Michael Taylor, chair of the association and a GP in Heywood, Lancashire, said: 'I know PMS practices and those who joined after 1991 who are affected. The scale is much greater than the GPC thinks.'

Camden and Islington LMC chair Dr Stephen Amiel said the GPC needed to issue guidance. He said: 'My understanding is that this could affect a lot of GPs.'

Dr Mitch Garson, chair of Hillingdon LMC, said: 'I'm disappointed by the GPC's line. There needs to be much more support.'

Dr Fleming and the SPA are now waiting to see if Islington PCT appeals to a higher judge against the decision at Clerkenwell County Court.

Dr Taylor said as the ruling was at a district level it would take two or three more cases for a precedent to be set.

Dr Fleming's winning argument

·Fees for courses attended April 1989 to March 1990 were paid in the year April 1990 to March 1991 (first year of PGEA) ­ ie in arrears

·No change in Dr Fleming's contractual position

·Five days of courses attended April 2003 to March 31, 2004 ­ no payment made for these

·New contract states 'final PGEA payments due for year ending March 31, 2004...will be paid after April 1, 2004'

By Joe Lepper

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