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DoH: 'GPs do less and work less but maintain lifestyle'

By Helen Crump

The new contract is leading GPs to 'do less, work less and still maintain the same lifestyle', a leading Department of Health official is claiming.

In an astonishing attack, Mike Seitz, chief operating officer of the department's commercial directorate, said the contract was 'fundamentally wrong'. He added that bringing in more private providers to challenge GPs was essential to get the services patients wanted.

Mr Seitz told the General Practice Management conference in Telford the department would advertise next year for providers to offer services in the 30 most under-doctored PCTs.

When asked whether GPs would be able to compete with larger firms wanting to come in, Mr Seitz said GPs were not providing certain services because 'they don't have to'.

He said: 'One of the lessons we learned was we've created incentives for GPs to do less and work less and still maintain the same lifestyle. The reality is if you're an independent GP, you can do what the heck you like.'

The comments provoked outrage among GPs.

Dr Hamish Meldrum, GPC chair, said Mr Seitz was forgetting the quality framework.

He added: 'Because not enough money went into the global sum, the incentives to take on more patients are not as good as they should be, but that's the department's fault.'

Dr Steve Haigh, a GP in Livingston, West Lothian, said Mr Seitz's comments bore little resemblance to reality: 'My in-hours are extending further and further into out-of-hours.'

A department spokesman later denied Mr Seitz had made the comments.

He said: 'There was no suggestion GPs are doing less work. The new GP contract has been good news for GPs, who receive more pay for working harder and smarter.'

What is the commercial directorate?

• Set up in June 2003. Remit to promote adoption and integration of private sector to improve efficiency and quality of care in the NHS

• Instigated Independent Sector Treatment Centre programme and the Arms Length Body Review.

• Central to negotiations involving private sector. Also informs strategic planning and policy reviews

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