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GP contract poll results in huge yes vote for Government offer

By Steve Nowottny

GPs have voted by a huge majority to accept the Government's contract offer to extend opening hours but have also expressed a massive show of no confidence in its handling of the NHS, the contract poll results released today show.

Over nine in ten (92%) selected Option A in a BMA poll, which will mean the average 6,000-patient practice will have to offer three extended hours opening a week.

More than 27,000 GPs responded to the poll, with the vast majority (96%), although opposed to both options on the table, selecting the Government's terms because they feared an imposed settlement would be even worse.

An overwhelming 98 out of every 100 GPs said they believed the Government's negotiation tactics had been unacceptable.

The GPC said the vote also showed an almost complete loss of faith among the profession in English Government policy and its ability to improve the health service, with 97% of English GPs saying they had no confidence in the Government's handling of the NHS.

Ninety three out of every hundred GPs said they believed the Government's policy of bringing private providers into NHS general practice would be bad for patients and the service as a whole.

The Government offer is set to be funded by a £158m access DES and 58.5 re-allocated QOF points.
The GPC has estimated that practices choosing not to offer extended hours will lose around £18,000 in resources.

Earlier this week, Health Secretary Alan Johnson sought to draw a line under the contract dispute, insisting ‘it's now time to move forward.'

But after the poll results were announced this morning, GPC chair, Dr Laurence Buckman, said: 'On Wednesday the Health Secretary publicly offered an olive branch to GPs, yet this poll shows the Government has a long way to go if it wants to repair the damage its past behaviour has caused.

'The Government must take heed of the strength of feeling shown in this poll. It cannot be good to have such a key part of the health workforce feeling disengaged from the way the government is handling the health service. The effect can only be corrosive and in the long term it is not a good way to get the best service for patients.

'If there is a clear message to come out of this it is that we cannot continue in this way. We want the NHS to work properly as much as everyone else, we want patients to be happy with the service they get from GPs, but it will only work if GPs feel they can trust the government not to bully and micromanage them all the time.

'Let me emphasise that a majority of GPs were and remain willing to provide extended hours surgeries. However, GPs believe they are being railroaded into an unrealistic vision of extended hours.

They believe it is at the expense of improvements in clinical care and they think the offer, in its present form, means patients will not get the level and flexibility of service in extended hours that they both expect and deserve. However it is time to draw a line under this and the BMA will now work towards the practical implementation of this package.'

The BMA's announcement of the contract poll results

Dr Laurence Buckman: GPs have no confidence in Government Dr Laurence Buckman: GPs have no confidence in Government The BMA contract poll results in full

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