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GPC warns of mass exodus in new year

GPs will immediately quit the NHS if the Government wrecks the delivery of a fully priced contract in January, the GPC has warned.

Contract negotiators predicted an overnight exodus of up to one-fifth of GPs if the deadline is not met, making a further ballot on resignation a redundant exercise.

GPs have become increasingly angry with ministers after the GPC revealed last week that the Department of Health was withholding key data necessary for the pricing of the contract.

As Pulse went to press, officials had still not handed over the data, just five weeks before the planned publication of the deal on January 10.

The delay has led GPC members to question further the Government's commitment to fund the major investment needed in the contract.

GPs' scepticism was heightened after the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, said in his pre-budget statement last week that the Government could not afford above-inflation wage rises.

A source close to the negotiations said ministers had become 'jumpy' about the cost of the contract, in particular the new information technology required.

GPC joint-deputy chair Dr Simon Fradd said the Government 'would be mad to put forward a contract that will not be supported'.

'By the time we get to a ballot on resignation a lot of people will have left anyway,' he said. 'Unless we produce something that really does look attractive, between 10 and 20 per cent will leave.'

Dr Fradd also blamed PCTs for not submitting the key

data to the Department of Health. 'Trusts may not be giving it the priority they ought to,' he said.

GPC members said it was vital to bring the timetable for the contract back on track to prevent mass resignations.

Dr Roger Chapman, a GPC member and GP in Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire, said GPs would have no patience for 'malevolent' Government actions. 'If there are small delays for genuine reasons people will be tolerant,' he said. 'One of the problems we face is significant mistrust in the Government's real motives.'

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