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Government names price as MPIG talks gather pace

By Steve Nowottny

Ministers have already told GPC negotiators how much they are willing to spend to scrap the MPIG as plans for a phase-out gather pace, Pulse can reveal.

Just two months after ministers confirmed they would scrap the guarantee, negotiations on the phase-out and the 2009/10 pay award are well underway, with Government and GPC economists modelling a number of alternative mechanisms.

In an exclusive interview with Pulse, GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman insisted additional investment would be required to ensure no practices lost out – and claimed the Government had already named its price.

'It has a figure in mind – but we've obviously got to talk about that,' he told Pulse.

Earlier this month it emerged that the Department of Health had set aside £550 million to pay for changes proposed in the Darzi review – but a DH spokesperson refused to say whether this would cover funding to end the MPIG.

Dr Buckman said the GPC was hoping to agree the mechanism for the MPIG phase-out in the next round of negotiations and was hopeful of agreement being reached before November.

But he added: ‘At the moment we're not at the point of closing the deal.'

The GPC has pledged any final deal on the MPIG will be ‘subject to the agreement of the profession', either through consultation with LMCs or a poll of all GPs.

But if the Government were to repeat the imposition tactics seen in the extended hours dispute, and force GPs to choose between two unpopular options as with the poll in February, Dr Buckman said GPs would not be offered a third option.

‘There's no point asking people about something they can't have,' he said.

Andrew Clapperton, head of primary care contracting at NHS Employers, said negotiations were ‘currently exploring a number of options on the future of the MPIG.'

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