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GPs driven into decision on PMS after contract delay

Thousands of GPs who applied to PMS as insurance against an unacceptable new GMS contract have had their plans stymied by the delay in pricing the deal.

Some 4,000 GPs who submitted expressions of interest in the next PMS wave will now have to submit a fully costed application or withdraw altogether before the new contract is published.

GPs who press ahead will do so without knowing if the profession is prepared to accept the new contract before March 31 ­ the final chance to pull out.

If the contract had been published last week, GPs would have been able to compare the two.

GPC member Dr Julian Neal, chair of the primary care development committee, said GPs were definitely hedging their bets but many would proceed with PMS applications because they 'can't wait any longer' for extra resources.

'People feel financially it's the only way,' he said. 'Other practices are beginning to lose confidence in there ever being a new contract.'

Ministers made it clear in the NHS Plan they intend to 'win over a majority' of GPs to PMS. So far they have met their target of a third of GPs into PMS by 2002.

GPC member Dr Charles Simenoff said delays were 'part of a Government ploy' to achieve its long-term goal.

Dr Bob Button, chief executive of Wessex LMCs, said the Department of Health wanted to push publication past the date on which GPs could pull out.

He added: 'A lot of GPs have put their names forward for the next wave because they had nothing to lose and could pull out in February.'

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