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Gold, incentives and meh

GPs' pay hopes revived

Negotiators' hopes of saving the contract have been given a significant boost after the new ready reckoner delivered the prospect of a big income rise for many practices.

But the first signs of a turn in the tide of opinion in favour of the deal were dented by a last-minute blunder that caused the reckoner to be

removed from the BMA's website only a day after it

was put up.

The setback, which echoed the presentational disaster

after the contract was first published, led GPs to complain they could not trust their results.

GPC negotiators blamed the Department of Health for the gaffe, complaining it had 'fiddled' with the reckoner without telling them.

Dr Simon Fradd, GPC joint-deputy chair, said he was 'almost in tears' when the problem was revealed. 'I was very upset. I really thought I had tested it to destruction.'

He said any practice that had used the reckoner before it was removed last Thursday would have to redo its sums because London weighting had been applied to all practices.

Despite the problems, early results seem to support negotiators' claims that GPs would see big increases in income.

Dr Gavin Jamie, a GP in Swindon, Wiltshire, said his practice was 17.9 per cent up by 2005/6 after he had accounted for the errors in the reckoner.

Dr Michael Smyth, a singlehanded GP in Maguiresbridge, Co. Fermanagh, said he would receive a 55 per cent increase by 2006.

Dr Roger Gardiner, a GP in Benfleet, Essex, said he was 36 per cent up.

But accountants said they were not ready to assure their GP clients they would all gain.

Andrew Leal, of Percy Gore & Company, said: 'Practices are going to wait a few days to make sure it doesn't change again.'

Negotiators said bad data or data entry errors should be the only reasons practices found themselves as losers.

Practices that are a partner down and opting for the minimum practice income guarantee have been told they will get £25,000 extra to compensate.

Meanwhile, GPC chair Dr John Chisholm admitted he expects a rough ride at this week's special LMC conference. He said: 'I am sure it will be a difficult day.'

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