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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Major hidden costs in new GP contract

By Cato Pedder

The new GP contract will have major hidden costs over and above a soaring GP prescribing bill, prescribing experts have warned.

They said a Government report which estimates a possible 5.6 per cent rise in prescribing costs as GPs strive to meet quality and outcomes targets did not factor in extra procedures such as blood tests and spirometry.

RCGP prescribing spokes-person Dr Jim Kennedy, a GP in Hayes, Middlesex, said the Department of Health had oversimplified the situation and added there were 'more complex implications'.

Dr Peter Fellows, chair of the GPC prescribing sub-

committee and a GP in Lydney, Gloucestershire, said 5.6 per cent increase was 'not enough' to cover the costs

of the quality and outcomes targets.

'Quality medicine doesn't come cheap,' he said.

Magnus Hird, head of prescribing at Blackpool PCT, said prescribing costs were not the only ones likely to rise and warned PCTs might have to cut back on vital new equipment.

He said: 'More echocardiograms will be needed, more spirometry and so on. PCTs have been working around this but it will just be a case of seeing what comes out in the wash.'

Dave Roberts, manager of the department's prescribing support unit, which produced the report, said the increased cost of prescribing would vary between PCTs depending on how quickly they implemented the new contract.

He added: 'The robustness of the report depends not

on whether the figures are right but in terms of other

initiatives that will impact on the drugs bill as well ­ things like the new pharmacy contract, the replacement of the maximum price scheme for generics.'

A spokesman for the department said it stood by the report but admitted: 'At a

notional level any assessment of the potential impact of

a change such as the intro-

duction of the new GMS

contract is subject to a number of assumptions about its

impact on prescribing behaviour.'

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