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Are you worth extra PMS cash?

PMS practices face an investigation into whether they have made best use of the growth money they were given to switch contracts.

By Ian Cameron

The Government review will check whether practices used the money to offer tailored local services and more flexibility as was intended with the introduction of PMS.

Earnings surveys have consistently shown PMS GPs earning more than their GMS counterparts. Ministers want to check that the 40 per cent of GPs on PMS contracts can justify the extra income and did not switch simply to increase their own earnings.

The move, announced in last week's community services White Paper, is the latest Government effort to squeeze pay.

It insisted on a freeze to global sums and quality pay for next year and ministers, including Prime Minister Tony Blair, have repeatedly referred in recent weeks to UK GPs being the best paid in Europe.

Dr Mo Dewji, head of primary care contracting at the Department of Health, said the review's terms of reference were not fixed but it would ensure PMS contracts 'map the needs of patients'.

He said: 'Is it a signal PMS is about to disappear? That's not the intention, but some practices have not been as flexible as they could have been and some have not managed what they sought to do in the first place.'

PMS GPs said PCTs were already auditing practices to check they were getting value for money and there was no need for a further review.

Dr Trefor Roscoe, a PMS GP in Sheffield, said his practice was fighting South East Sheffield PCT for the return of vaccination and immunisation funding after it ruled the practice was earning more than the area's average for the work.

He said: 'PCTs are already looking to see whether they are getting value for money. Our argument is they can't do that without proper negotiation and we want the money back.'

Dr James Kingsland, chair of the National Association of Primary Care and an architect of PMS pilots, said it was reasonable to ask practices to demonstrate they had not gone into PMS just to earn more money.

He said: 'If a PMS practice is providing the same services as a GMS practice and extending their income, that's unfair.'

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