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March contract calendar

March will be another busy month as practices complete preparations for the new contract ­ things have not been helped by the Department

of Health constantly missing its deadlines

while insisting GPs always meet theirs

MARCH 7

You should have received your provisional global sum and MPIG. This cannot be the final figure since the registered patient numbers will only be available post April 1, but it should give you a good approximation. Aspiration payments for the Q&O framework should have been agreed.

MARCH 5

This is the deferred deadline for the PCO to have visited your practice and agreed the terms of the new contract.

You should have notified the PCO if you wish to opt out of responsibility for out-of-hours care. You should have decided whether you want to be considered an NHS body (I wouldn't ­ I can see no advantage).

You should know what enhanced services the practice is going to be asked to provide by the PCO.

You should have defined the practice area you wish to apply for. This is important if you want to close your list. There is a complicated system of application to do this and if granted it will allow the PCO not to commission certain services from you by virtue of your being considered too busy already. If there is disagreement about whether you can or cannot close your list then the assessment panel will arbitrate. All PCOs should have formed such a panel, to include a PCO chief executive as well as the LMC. This panel will consider cases for PCOs other than its own.

You must be clear about any clauses you will not accept. For example, clause 465 appears to prevent GPs leaving the NHS being able to continue with private work. Objecting to certain clauses does not prevent you signing the rest of the contract, providing you notify the PCO using the template letter produced by the GPC. A copy of this is to be found on our website: www.lmclive.co.uk

MARCH 15

Your practice leaflet should have been drafted and sent for printing, ready for April 1. The PCO should have agreed with the LMC the locum reimbursement policy that will operate in your area.

MARCH 29

Dispatch the remaining Red Book claims that are due ­ remember there will be no Red Book after April 1 so don't miss out!

You should have received the final reimbursements for 2003/4 for IT minor upgrades and maintenance and, if needed, a replacement computer system paid for by the PCO to ensure you are RFA 99 compliant. You should also have received full payment of the QUIP for 2003/4, agreed locally.

MARCH 7

Last date to sign If you don't you will have to use the unsatisfactory default contract. You would need this to be paid anything after April 1. But it could have undesirable effects like preventing you earning Q&O payments or opting out of out-of-hours.

Bob Button is chief executive of Wessex LMCs

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