DH says BMA has no case over MPIG legal challenge
By Gareth Iacobucci
Ministers have been advised they can withstand the BMA's threatened legal challenge over the freeze of the MPIG and are determined not to be forced into a climb-down.
Lawyers have told the Department of Health the BMA does not have a case in arguing that the planned MPIG freeze is illegal, ministerial sources have told Pulse.
The department's determination to face down the BMA emerged as a leading accountancy firm attacked GP leaders for allowing a clause to be inserted in the 2006/7 GMS contract revisions, which it argues left the Government free to freeze the MPIG.
The BMA last week wrote to the Department of Health insisting the Government's GP pay award was illegal because it contravened a guarantee to uplift the MPIG annually by the same percentage as the global sum.
But an email circulated by Tenon Group medical accountants refers to an agreement made in paragraph 1.6 of the revisions, which states: ‘It was agreed future uplifts to the global sum should seek to reduce reliance upon correction factor payments and so release an element of the correction factor envelope.'
Neil Morrison, medical services director at Tenon, says in the email: ‘It appears this paragraph was included following the Government's threat to change the allocation formula and get rid of the correction factor in one go.
‘GPC negotiators obviously felt a more gradual reduction would be preferable - but it's a shame they didn't feel the need to publicise the agreement more widely at the time.'
The BMA said it had yet to receive a response from the health secretary to its challenge, but defended its position over MPIG. A spokesperson said: ‘We are awaiting a response from the health secretary to our letter challenging the legal deliverability of the DDRB recommendation on GPs' pay. When we have received a response we will consider the next steps.
‘Our position on the MPIG is clear. It is in place in perpetuity for as long as needed. It will only become unnecessary when sufficient funds are injected into the global sum. It was envisaged this would be achieved on a rising tide basis of resources for practices, but so far this has not occurred.'
Both the health secretary Alan Johnson and Health minister Ben Bradshaw renewed speculation that MPIG's days are numbered in a Commons Opposition Debate Day earlier this week.
Mr Bradshaw said Lord Darzi's review would 'tackle' the issue as soon as this summer.Ben Bradshaw: Government will 'tackle MPIG' in summer Ben Bradshaw: Government will 'tackle MPIG' in summer