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Implementation timetable now major concern

The long-awaited Department of Health guidance on the new GMS contract is notable for its clarity and contains detail that will allay many of GPs' anxieties ­ particularly about the minimum practice income guarantee and staff costs. It also sets an extremely logical plan for implementation. But in view of the

contract's history of slippages the timetable is extremely tight.

For example GPs and PCOs have to meet and agree practice areas, lists, directed enhanced services, notional superannuable earnings and budgets by the end of February. Practices also have to give written notice by February 13 if they wish to become an NHS body or sign a private law contract and keep the right to sue their PCO.

GPs and PCOs are trying to get the whole show on the road by April 1.

Their goodwill and endeavours have not been helped by the department's tardiness. The worry is that this will lead to a bodged job, which will need unpicking later.

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