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GPs buried under trusts' workload dump

Hutton sides with GPs in flu pay row

Health Minister John Hutton is ready to rubber-stamp a £30 million deal to pay GPs in England to vaccinate at-risk under-65s against flu ­ provided he can prise the cash from Government coffers.

The move was one of a series of pledges made by Mr Hutton in a bid to shore up GP faith in the new contract.

GP negotiators received a further boost when the NHS Confederation caved in to

demands to pay this year's quality preparation cash in a lump sum. GPs should get the cash in mid-October.

Their backdated 11.3 per cent gross pay rise is expected at the same time after the two sides finally signed off joint evidence to the pay Review Body.

Mr Hutton signalled his willingness to sanction a Government U-turn on flu pay

after GP negotiators made clear the scale of GP anger at a crisis meeting.

He told them it was 'likely' the money would be found to pay GPs in England the £6.80 fee this winter and promised a final answer this week.

Mr Hutton told Pulse he 'fully supported' extending payments to at-risk under-65s, adding: 'We want this to be done as quickly as possible.'

He added: 'I don't want any suggestions that the Government has not stood by its decisions. I hope we can put the rows behind us and put the resources in to move forward with the new GMS

contract.'

But Dr Hamish Meldrum, joint deputy GPC chair, warned: 'It's not a done deal. I'm not going to start jumping for joy until some of the crinkly stuff is in my wallet.'

Questions over vaccine supplies remain and GPs would only qualify for payments if they had registers of at-risk

patients.

In a further bid to bolster GP morale, Mr Hutton allowed GPC chair Dr John Chisholm to join the Department of Health's contract implementation group and pledged 'better arrangements' from 2004/5 to monitor PCT enhanced services spending.

But Dr Meldrum brushed off the pledge. He said: 'There is a clear commitment to have fairly robust monitoring for next year ­ but it's this year GPs are worried about.'

GPC negotiator Dr Laurence Buckman said there was now just a 'mechanical process' to go through before GPs saw their pay rise and £9,000 average quality cash.

'People will get a very big backdated cheque,' he said.

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