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By Ian Cameron

Thousands of GPs are set for a virtual pay cut next year after Chancellor Gordon Brown ordered public sector pay rises to be pegged at 2 per cent ­ below the inflation rate of 2.3 per cent.

The demand came in a letter to the Doctors and Dentists Review Body, which is due to recommend rises for salaried GPs, registrars and trainers early next year.

The Chancellor's intervention, made before the Review Body has even finished taking evidence, falls far short of the BMA's call for a 12 per cent increase for sessional doctors.

Even the Department of Health called for a 2.5 per cent increase in its evidence.

Dr Laurence Buckman, dep-uty chair of the GPC, said the pay Review Body would not snub the Chancellor's demands.

He said: 'There are plenty of precedents of the Government ignoring review bodies.'

GPs said a mere 2 per cent rise would further widen the gap between sessional GPs and principals and could create a 'siege mentality' among salaried doctors.

They also warned that the Government stance was a clear indication that increases in global sums and quality pay for principals would be severely restricted next year.

Ministers have already questioned whether they are getting value for money from the huge investment in the contract.

GPs predicted the Government would now be looking to claw back some of the cash.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, GPC member and a GP in Stanmore, Middlesex, said GPs were starting to suspect they would be victims of their own success on the quality framework.

He added: 'This is a clawback in indirect terms.'

Dr Simon Fradd, a GP in Nottingham who helped negotiate the new contract, predicted the quality framework would be 'ratcheted up'.

He said: 'For the work we are doing for 1,050 points we are likely to get less points in the

future.'

Dr Richard Fieldhouse, chair of the National Association of Sessional GPs, said the pay freeze would push many salaried GPs into freelance work.

He said: 'When you realise you are getting half of what partners in the same practice are getting a seige mentality can set in where you work to rule, which can be unhealthy for patients.

'Or salaried GPs will vote with their feet and look to freelancing which will cost principals a lot more.'

icameron@cmpinformation.com

How pay is being clawed back

· Ministers say contract has 'overdelivered' and question value for money

· Chancellor tells pay Review Body to peg pay rises below inflation

· GPs predict tougher QOF and no global sum rise for second year running

· Enhanced service money

going unspent for second

year

· Premises cash held back to cover PCT deficits

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