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Independents' Day

Half of GPs call for contract renegotiation

Exclusive Nearly half of GPs think that the GP contract needs completely replacing, with many calling for QOF to be scrapped and for practices to be given greater control over out-of-hours services, a Pulse survey has found.

A survey of 309 GPs revealed that 49% believe the 2004 GP contract should be renegotiated as it is ‘out of date’ amid declining income and a growing recruitment crisis.

This year’s negotiations for the 2014/15 GP contract saw the monthly global sum payments rise to £73.56 per patient and a reduction to QOF of nearly 40%, which the GPC said would remove ‘box ticking’.

But respondents to Pulse’s survey, carried out earlier this month, said the negotiations did not go far enough to reduce bureaucracy.

Dr Hadrian Moss, a GP in Kettering, Northamptonshire, said that core services have changed beyond recognition since the 2004 contract was introduced, and should be re-priced to prevent surgeries from failing.

He said: ‘The 2004 contract defined what were core services and what was considered “extra” work that practices could undertake if they had capacity to do so. The situation many practices are in now is that extra work is a necessity in order to survive.’

‘The GP workforce is finite and this model is therefore unsustainable. The future for general practice as patients currently know it is very bleak.’

A report, drawn up jointly by the Nuffield Trust and King’s Fund think tanks in July last year, suggested that NHS England introduce a brand new contract ‘in parallel to the GMS contract’ to incentivise GPs to form networks or larger groups to provide services to improve mental health, elderly care and social care. NHS England said at the time that the report would be ‘helpful’ in forming its longer-term strategy for the NHS under the Call to Action banner, which it is yet to release.

However several survey respondents called on QOF and the ‘waste of time targets’ to be abolished, while others voiced frustration at the DES-related ‘bureaucracy’.

One GP partner wrote: ‘It is no contract at all: it binds GPs but not NHS England. The Government is allowed to change the rules, parameters and income as they see fit and we have no recourse - hardly the contract of independent contractors’

Some cited the need for GPs to have more flexibility in the services they choose to provide, and the ability to reclaim responsibility for out-of-hours services.

One GP locum respondent wrote: ‘The opt-out from 24 hour responsibility has been a disaster (for patients). We need to take it back, but only if it is adequately funded. We also need a contract that stipulates minimum acceptable manpower levels.’

Dr Andrew Thomson, a locum GP from Forfar in Scotland, said: ‘All contracts reach the end of their useful life and this one is rapidly heading in that direction. The 2004 contract was a great step forward, but successive Governments have managed to paint the contract as a tool to deliver additional income to GPs, rather than the true intention of trying to deliver additional resource to GP Practices.

‘I would like to see future GP contracts that have the ability to limit the transfer of un-resourced work around the health service.’

NHS Alliance Chair Dr Michael Dixon told Pulse that it was ‘completely inevitable’ that the GP contract would be scrapped within the next ten years.

Signs that the contract is losing relevance for many GPs are already evident in Devon and Cornwall, he said. Dr Dixon described the recent decision of Somerset practices to ditch QOF completely as ‘the ‘beginning of the waters coming through the floodgates’.

He added: ‘The contract hasn’t kept up with general practice, which has extended its remit. A lot of GPs are looking for simpler contracts, and they’d like more flexibility in terms of what they can do instead of being hemmed in by tick boxes.

‘The absolute priority must be to support practices to take on more and to make it easy for them to do so. I think the local contract is probably the best way.’

But Dr Robert Morley, chair of the GPC contracts and regulations subcommittee, told Pulse that the problems that have affected general practice since 2004 are due to underfunding of the contract, rather than the contract itself.

He said: ‘Inevitably, [the contract] hasn’t delivered in a lot of areas it should have done. It needs some changes, rather than complete renegotiation. In particular, it needs some sustained, targeted investment to increase capacity in general practice.’

‘We have to get the Government to understand that general practice is a solution, not a problem. We’re fed up of being told that we’re to blame for everything, or the contract is to blame.’

Just over a quarter (26%) of respondents to Pulse’s survey said that they thought the contract should not be renegotiated, while the remaining 25% said that they didn’t know.

Survey results

Question: Do you think that the 2004 GP contract should be renegotiated?

Yes - 152 (49%)

No - 83 (26%)

Don’t know - 78 (25%)

About the survey: Pulse launched this survey of readers on 30 June 2014, collating responses using the SurveyMonkey tool. The 29 questions asked covered a wide range of GP topics, to avoid selection bias on any one issue. The survey was advertised to readers via our website and email newsletters, with a prize draw for a Samsung HD TV as an incentive to complete the survey. As part of the survey, respondents were asked to specify their job title. A small number of non-GPs were screened out to analyse the results for this question. This question was answered by 313 GPs.


Pulse July survey

Samsung HD TV - win - online

Take Pulse’s July survey and have the chance to win a Samsung Smart TV.

The survey covers a range of areas, from prescription charges to mental health, and discrimination to PMS reviews.



Readers' comments (28)

  • Dear Anonymous,

    All whinge, no guts. You GPs only have yourselves to blame. Poms whinge and whine and do nothing about it.

    Why would any self-respecting politician take any notice whatsoever of someone who won't even give themselves a NAME!

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  • We need to uncouple Primary Care from servicing the needs of NHS hospitals. On my wish list would be, fixed number of NHS appointments per session, provision for private GP patients to access NHS prescriptions and services, end of revalidation, NHS paying indemnity fees and reform of the GMC.

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  • 1.37 The treatment of whistle-blowers and anyone else who doesn't toe the line in the NHS is very well documented. A number of doctors have been forced to leave the UK and others have committed suicide. Unfortunately as a profession we allowed ourselves to become divided and supplicant to the Government who have a range of means at their disposal to finish you off via the GMC, revalidation, CQC, and local area teams. HMG have been very successful in crushing doctors to the extent that even our leaders describe a 'culture of fear'. Your average jobbing GP is likely to have responsibilities to his family as well as his patients so it's no great surprise that many prefer to remain Anonymous.

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  • Ha ha ha ha ha ha we can't win ha ha
    Now watch us all try and renegotiate a contract where OOH and all realms of physically impossible tasks in reality and expectations far removed from common sense be part of our good medical practice naturally agreed and written and confirmed by those who rarely do more than the bare minimum know the types do as I say , my way or the high way
    Ha ha ha half of GPs ha ha ha
    We are all going to be wearing dungarees and singing uptown girl and Billy Joel and Bruce Springsten records and denim stocks will go through the roof
    Ha ha man we are so in the doodoooo and there are so many amoebic minded invertebrates that all I can do is just say ha ha ha ha ha ha keeps me sane in a strange kind of way

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  • All those A*s A levels and a bunch of ninnies who do not have an opinion!! in spite of the fact that their colleagues and friends are working 12+ hour days, seeing 40+ patients and still going bankrupt. And this Contract is still OK ? WOW. I have heard it all. We deserve everything we get.

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  • I reckon the Government will want GPs on 5 year contracts, conveniently forgetting that staff and lease liabilities are much longer.

    I saw the light awhile ago and have left this rat race. I answer to myself only. The Government has no control over me.

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  • The tragedy is that it doesn't have to be like this. The rest of the EU uses a mixed funding model so that doctors are not constantly at loggerheads with their government. In fact I'm amazed the EU allows us to persist with the NHS as it is a barrier to the free market and harmonization of standards in a very large sector of business.

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  • Peter Lacey | Private GP | 14 July 2014 1:37pm

    No politician with influence in central government is going to listen to a grassroots whinging po[h]m GP annyway. Politicians only care when a hospital is going to be closed down or consumers complain about a 3 week wait for an appointment and then they only write to complain rather than help their community and the public servants that serve them. My own MP, who is the Home Secretary, is an excellent constituancy MP who visited us when someone complained and she took a real interest in the difficulties we were having. Sadly, on being in power her work is elsewhere and her party have made the NHS worse.
    Yours Anonymous, soon to be ex-whinging GP.

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  • That's a legendary post gp reg 2.19! I would like to change the minor surgery aspect, consultants will snip a tag for 200 quid and we in our Samaritan role will snip those bad boys at a cost to ourselves.
    See it in perspective guys- my other half is a vet working >50 hrs/week (and overtime regularly for no extra) let's just say it's approx a third of my drawings.
    We need a militant leader of our trade union to re-negotiate the contract and if no ball is being played- do a teacher act.

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  • 1:37pm Peter Lacey Private GP
    I for one am proudly anonymous for my own reasons which are absolutely none of your business. If you work within the NHS - which you evidently don't - you'd understand.

    'Winging poms' is like 1980 mate ...wake up - where have you been the last 34 years?? There other side of the world maybe, drinking a VB and swatting flys on the dunny? ..go back to your 'private practice' and slap on some sun screen.

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