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A faulty production line

GP pay award on hold as BMA challenges legality

By Steve Nowottny

The BMA has issued a formal challenge to the Government over this year's GP pay award, warning the decision to cut practice correction factors is ‘not legal'.

In a letter to Health Secretary Alan Johnson, BMA chair Dr Hamish Meldrum expressed ‘serious concerns' that the recommendations of the Doctors' and Dentists' Review Body – accepted in full by the Government – ‘are not legally deliverable under the current regulations'.

Department of Health lawyers are now studying the letter. A spokesperson for the Department said: 'We are currently considering this and will be responding in due course.'

This year's pay award and local enhanced services promised as part of this year's contract deal are now on hold pending the Government's reply. Discussions on the additional investment in clinical areas are continuing.

The dispute centres over the move to cut practices' correction factors, which the BMA believes contradicts the agreement that the MPIG was guaranteed ‘in perpetuity'.

The DDRB recommended a 2.7% rise in the global sum but no increase in funding for the MPIG – meaning a third successive pay freeze for the nine out of ten practices relying on MPIG.

GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman said: ‘The agreements are set out in the two blue books of the GMS contract and the two Farrar-Chisholm letters.'

‘They constitute a legally binding framework and they can't retrospectively be altered – as we now know from our pensions.'

The BMA's challenge follows its successful legal appeal over the Government's attempt to retrospectively cap GP pensions. Last month the BMA won a judicial review after a High Court judge ruled the cap on GP pensions was unlawful.

The GPC estimates that only 335 GP practices would receive the full 2.7 per cent increase to global sum payments and 98 would get an increase of up to 2.69 per cent, under the current deal.

The vast majority of general medical service practices - 4,405 - would get nothing.

BMA logo Dr Hamish Meldrum's letter to Alan Johnson said the DDRB report was 'not legally deliverable'. Dr Hamish Meldrum

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