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GPC split over scrapping QOF square root formula

By Lilian Anekwe

The GPC was divided over how to remove the controversial square root formula, with the decision to scrap it from April the subject of fierce debate within the committee, Pulse can reveal.

News of a split within the GPC came as fears emerged that the decision to replace the formula with one reflecting true prevalence could cost general practice millions of pounds – despite the Government's insistence that the change will be cost neutral.

LMC minutes record that the issue caused huge fractures within the GPC at its October meeting and again at a subsequent meeting – with 'much smaller' numbers of members voting for the formula's removal second-time round.

Dr Satya Sharma, a GPC representative for the West Midlands who helped thrash out the agreement, said the BMA had been right to act swiftly.

'You could have argued and said let's do it over the next three, five or 10 years. But if you chop a monkey's tail bit by bit it's very painful.'

But dissenting voices are openly questioning the wisdom of agreeing to the move, which could see some practices losing up to £100,000 by April 2010.

Dr Michelle Drage, joint chief executive of Londonwide LMCs, said the decision had been a 'strange' one: 'The explanation given is that the other side wanted to do this now, because it suited them to tick the health inequalities box.'

‘But I look around London and I see health inequalities all over the place. So how taking money out of London helps with that, I don't know.'

Meanwhile, PCTs in areas where practices have been underfunded and are set to earn up to £70,000 more per year from the new formula are refusing to rule out cutting LESs or other primary care services to bankroll the changes.

Trusts in England and Wales in high-prevalence areas will have to find in the order of an extra £20m to cover the cost of the changes, and there are fears some or all of this could be taken from elsewhere in the primary care budget.

Dr Alan Keith, a GP in Rotherham who campaigned for the square root formula to be axed, claimed some GPC members were still pushing for the issue to be reconsidered.

'There are a lot of doctors in posh practices who are extremely put out by the fact it's gone. They think it's their god-given right to receive huge sums of money for very little and there's no indication they will give up.'

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