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The waiting game

BMA and NHS Employers at loggerheads over 1.5% GP pay rise call

By Steve Nowottny

GPs should get a below-inflation pay rise of just 1.5% next year and have to make up the difference by earning more through enhanced services, NHS Employers said this week.

The move, in evidence to the Doctors' and Dentists' Review Body, puts NHS Employers on a collision course with the GPC. GP negotiators responded by demanding the pay review body award GPs 4% in an effort to keep pace with spiralling expenses.

It also comes despite ministers repeatedly using a 2% annual uplift figure in projections over the phase-out of the MPIG.

NHS Employers justified the 1.5% recommendation by predicting a big jump in the money offered to GPs through local and national enhanced services, projecting a £30-50m increase next year through local enhanced services and a further £50-100m from national programmes such as the cardiovascular screening programme.

The estimates follow a letter from the Department of Health to PCTs in September instructing them to increase local enhanced services by 20%.

GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘I can't see that there would be a big rise in LES money next year. Our experience of LESs over the past few years has been less than positive and PCTs have been reluctant to invest properly in enhanced services. The bottom line of our case is for a 4% increase in line with other doctors. That is seen as a realistic and reasonable increase bearing in mind our income has dropped by the order of 10% in the past three years.'

The NHS Employers submission also called for GPs to further cut their expenses by 1%, noting that significant savings could be made ‘through changing the skill mix of the practice primary care team, for example by increasing the workload undertaken by practice nurses'.

However, the submission

also predicts that without efficiency savings, practice expenses would rise by between 2.5% and 2.8% next year and adds that ‘the current economic position means inflation forecasts are liable to change'.

Grassroots GPs said they feared cash-strapped PCTs would be reluctant to offer more LES funding.

Dr Russell Walshaw, chief executive of North Lincolnshire and East Yorkshire LMC, said: ‘We don't believe PCTs will actually deliver the goods. We want to see the money going into the nationally agreed income stream so that all GPs actually receive it.'

Dr Elizabeth Barrett, whose practice in Shirebrook participates in one of the Derbyshire County PCT LESs highlighted in the NHS Employers submission, added: ‘Rather than saying "here's some more money", they say "here's some more money but only if you do this, this and this".

‘It is more money but essentially for more and more work.'

Dr Richard Vautrey: disputes NHS Employers' claim that more LES money will make up for pay hike of just 1.5% Dr Richard Vautrey: disputes NHS Employers' claim that more LES money will make up for pay hike of just 1.5%

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