Final verdict on 6% GP funding boost 'could be delayed until the summer'
The BMA's GP Committee is holding out hope that the independent pay review body will award GP practices a 'proper' boost to their finances this year, although confirmation may not be until the summer.
GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey said GPs 'have a good case' and the GPC 'hopes' that the Review Body on Doctors' and Dentists' Remuneration (DDRB) will deliver 'a proper uplift for GP pay and expenses'.
As previously reported, GPC has asked the DDRB to award GPs a 6% funding uplift - or a 2% pay uplift plus the retail price index (RPI, which currently stands at 4%).
Speaking in front of local GPs at a GPC roadshow in London, Dr Vautrey said the GPC knows practices are 'struggling under huge pressures' at the moment, adding that this year's contract negotiations will 'hopefully provide some resource'. He added that ministers recognised there was a need for 'flexibility' over pay as this was causing problems with recruitment and retention.
The GP workforce in England is continuing to decline, with 219 full-time equivalent GPs lost to the profession since September.
As previously revealed by Pulse, the GPC is negotiating for stability in this year's contract, including no changes to the QOF. And Dr Vautrey confirmed at the London event that the contract would 'not have any big surprises', including 'no new enhanced services' or 'boxes to tick that you need to be concerned about'.
But he went on to say that the GPC has not repeated the last two years' method of negotiating a package uplift aside from the DDRB process. This is because the GPC is hopeful that the review body will recommend a more significant uplift than in previous years, after the Government lifted the 1% public sector pay cap.
Dr Vautrey told attendees that 'this year is different', and that 'the headline is that we are using the [DDRB] process'.
'The Department of Health and Social Care have themselves recognised that, although there is a 1% that has been budgeted for, there is a need for flexibility. And they've acknowledged the problems around GP recruitment and retention,' he said.
Following 'a material erosion' of pay 'in the last decade', Dr Vautrey said GPs 'have a strong case for an increase in pay and for our expenses to be fully covered, and we hope the DDRB will listen to our case'.
Dr Vautrey also said that the DDRB process 'has been a bit delayed this year, so it won't conclude until later on', which he said could be 'maybe spring, maybe even early summer'.
But he said there 'will be a process of reconciling if we are successful in getting an award'.
'We have to start giving hard-working GPs the pay that they deserve, and that is what we are trying to procure through the DDRB,' he added.
Dr Vautrey further said the Government would cover GP indemnity with another £30m special pot of funding directly to GP practices, whilst the state-backed scheme continues to be negotiated, and that the value of a QOF point would increase in line with the contract population index.
He also said the GPC is attempting to negotiate an inflationary increase to the maternity and sickness absence cover that was added for the first time in this year's contract.
And he lamented that GPC has not succeeded in convincing NHS England to allow GPs to charge their own patients for non-NHS services, such as for example cosmetic minor surgery.
Dr Vautrey said: 'We're trying to maintain contract stability because we know practices are fed up with the constant churn in new things that they've got to do, and new targets that they've got to hit.'