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Government threatens to impose pay deal on BMA

By Steve Nowottny

The Government is to bypass the BMA and begin a ‘gun-barrel' consultation to allow it to impose its own terms on extended opening, after the GPC walked away from negotiations.

GPC negotiators rejected outright a Government offer on access which would have ensured a guaranteed 1.5% pay rise for GPs next year. A GPC counter-offer was also rejected by the Government – even though negotiators were willing to take on some evening and weekend surgeries for no additional overall funding.

Both the Government and the GPC supported funding extended opening by re-allocating up to £158 million currently used for the Access and Choice and Booking Directed Enhanced Services.

But the GPC argued this could fund two extra hours opening each week at an average 6,000-patient practice, while the Government insisted it should pay for three extra hours.

Ministers also insisted that 58.5 QOF points should be re-allocated to access – a move vehemently opposed by the GPC.

The Department of Health said it would begin consulting on its proposals immediately, in order to complete the consultation before the next financial year begins in April 2008.

Health Minister Ben Bradshaw said: ‘This is a good proposal that will go a long way to delivering the more convenient opening hours the public wants.'

‘We regret the BMA has not felt able to agree to it, but we hope GPs will. The BMA is an important organisation representing medical opinion in this country but it is important that on this issue it does not put the interests of members ahead of the interests of patients.'

Dr Barbara Hakin, chair of the NHS Employers negotiating team, said she was ‘very disappointed' the GPC had chosen not to accept a ‘good deal'.

GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman said the BMA would carry out its own survey of GPs' views on the Government's ‘gun-barrel' consultation.

‘The GPC proposed a package which would include offering extended surgery hours, further improving the quality of GP services and all within existing resources,' he said.

‘Unfortunately the Government is determined to impose a different and more draconian solution on all GPs that has the potential to damage practices operationally and economically.'

‘We understand that such a consultation on imposition is a step they feel compelled to take, but they should understand that we will not negotiate under threat.'

Dr Laurence Buckman - walking away from talks Deal or no deal

GPC proposals

- Average practice of 6,000 patients would open for an additional two hours of surgery time a week, equivalent to one evening surgery 6.30pm- 8.30pm or one Saturday morning surgery
- Local flexibility to allow practices to decide when best to schedule additional opening
- Reallocation of £158 million currently allocated to Access and Choose and Book DESs to fund Extended Access DES
- Reallocation of 38.5 points from organisation and holistic domains to clinical domains, to encourage practices to focus on osteoporosis, peripheral arterial disease, heart failure and other clinical areas

Government proposals

- Average practice of 6,000 patients would open for an additional three hours of surgery time a week, equivalent to one evening surgery 6.30pm-8.30pm or one Saturday morning surgery
- Less flexibility over scheduling of extended opening – extra surgeries must last at least 90 minutes
- Reallocation of £158 million currently allocated to Access and Choose and Book DESs to fund Extended Access DES
- 58.5 QOF points (worth up to £63 million) reallocated to incentivise extended opening
- Guaranteed additional new investment in contract of at least 1.5%

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