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GPC hits at ministers over gloating on PMS

The GPC has condemned ministers for implying PMS GPs offer a better service after figures released last week showed record numbers of practices switching from GMS.

With just weeks to go until the new GMS contract is revealed, ministers gloated over what they argued were the advantages of PMS.

The figures show a third of GPs are now in PMS after wave 4b, which began in October, proved to be the biggest so far.

Some 764 practices joined the latest wave, finally bringing the Government up to its NHS Plan target level.

Health minister John Hutton said PMS was evidence of the Government's commitment to modernise general practice. GPs in PMS also benefited from 'enhanced personal and professional development,' he added.

But GPC chair Dr John Chisholm said the new GMS contract was the way to modernise and added that PMS was not solving the recruitment and retention crisis.

Latest Department of Health figures showed empty PMS posts accounted for 15 per cent of all GP vacancies, up from 4 per cent last year. Dr Chisholm said: 'The single most important step the Government can take to provide better services for patients is to agree a new (GMS) contract.'

GPC negotiator Dr Peter Holden was angry Mr Hutton had implied GMS GPs were offering an inferior service. 'It casts the aspersion that GMS GPs are less available to their patients and less flexible,' he said.

'That's just plainly not true. It's pure Government propaganda. A lot of doctors are being pushed into PMS by managers whose performance- related pay depends on it.'

Former Government PMS adviser and Wirral GP Dr James Kingsland said there was no evidence that having more GPs in PMS had any clinical value. 'Thirty per cent is just flannel,' he said. 'There is enough information around to say that PMS has become a political football.'

The Government confirmed that a further PMS wave would begin in October 2003 and said PMS would continue alongside the new GMS contract.

The GPC wants a move to a single contractual framework. Dr Chisholm said it would continue to fight for sole negotiating rights for PMS and GMS GPs.

PMS update

Date Wave No. of

practices

April '98 1 81

October '99 2 186

April '01 3a 744

October '01 3b 359

April '02 4a 380

October '02 4b 764

Total 2,514

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