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GPs are set to be paid for using Choose and Book. The Government has said it wants GPs to be 'supported' for taking on the controversial booking scheme as well as other Connecting for Health programmes such as the National Care Record.

The Department of Health told Pulse last week it had

ordered NHS Employers to 'explore options' in talks with the GPC on the future of the GMS contract as to how GPs could be paid.

The decision follows intense lobbying by GPs, who insisted Choose and Book will cause a significant increase in workload.

It is not known how much cash will be on offer but Dr Hamish Meldrum, GPC chair, said an important principle had been established that extra work meant extra money.

He added that the mechanism being considered for paying GPs would be a directed enhanced service for IT.

Dr Meldrum said: 'It could be flexible to reflect the different levels at which practices could participate. For example, in Choose and Book you might just generate a booking number or do the whole booking.'

Dr Gillian Braunold, one of two GP clinical leads for Connecting for Health, said the Government commitment was 'a positive step'.

She said: 'Whether that's moving money around or new money it's quite encouraging.'

Chris Douse, head of primary care contracting at NHS Employers, confirmed it would bring Connecting for Health into its negotiating remit, but refused to comment on how GPs would be paid or whether new money was available.

'Connecting for Health is a priority for the Government and its success is dependent on the support of GPs,' she said.

'We will be discussing this issue with a view to finding a way forward that achieves the Government's aims and is practical and achievable for GPs.'

But some GPs and IT experts said handing out money was not the solution.

Ewan Davies, chair of the Primary Health Care Specialist Group of the British Computer Society, said the news was positive but did not address 'the unsustainable demand for resources' placed on practices.

Dr Mike Robinson, medical director of primary care software supplier InPractice Systems, said the main issue was 'lack of engagement' with GPs.

By Ian Cameron

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