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GPs dismiss predictions of meltdown after a No vote

Dire warnings from the BMA and ministers of the implications for GPs if they reject the contract are hugely exaggerated, according to GPs with close Government ties.

Ministers and GP negotiators have told GPs they will lose their out-of-hours opt-out, quality and seniority pay and pension increase if they vote No in the ballot.

Health Minister John Hutton told Pulse he 'would have to think about' whether GPs would still get the £1.3 billion earmarked for primary care via the contract. 'We want to put the money into primary care and the new contract is the best way to do that, but of course if there's a No vote we would have to reconsider all these issues,' he said.

But GPs close to the Government believe it would have to compromise, otherwise its NHS Plan targets would be doomed to failure.

Dr Paul Zollinger-Read, a GP in Braintree, Essex, and a Government adviser, believed ministers would not withdraw the out-of-hours opt-out. 'I don't think the Government would say ''right we will sort you out'' ­ they will be much more facilitative,' he said.

'If they lose the GPs as well as the consultants they can kiss goodbye to the medical workforce and without them the [NHS Plan] targets become impossible to meet.'

Dr Mike Dixon, chair of the NHS Alliance, said the Government would try to

corral GPs into PMS, but would keep the quality framework and out-of-hours opt-out. He said: 'I'm sure the Government will be saddened if there's a No vote. They would probably try to salvage what they could.'

Dr Peter Smith, chair of the National Association of Primary Care, said the Department of Health viewed the quality framework as the 'jewel in the crown' and would not see it lost.

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