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GPs go forth

PCOs to miss key deadlines for contract

By Craig Kenny

Key GMS contract deadlines will be missed by many primary care organisations because the Government has bounced them into an impossible timetable, GPs warn.

LMCs said a strict 11-week series of deadlines set in comprehensive Department of Health guidance aimed at ensuring the April 1 start date is met would 'strike fear into the hearts of PCOs'.

Worcestershire LMC said trusts were already 'several weeks' behind with implementing directed enhanced services. These have to be agreed and signed off by the end of February.

Nottinghamshire LMC said PCOs were still in the dark over many issues and it had major concerns over the readiness of payment systems. Cornwall and Isles of Scilly LMC said funding for IT was unclear.

Dr Bob Button, chief executive of Wessex LMCs, said the Government had been 'unrealistic' in giving trusts until the end of February to finalise most of the contract when it only sent out guidance in January. He added: 'It's immensely complex and should strike fear into the hearts of PCOs and GPs.'

Publication of the complex documents, which have eased many of GPs' fears about the content of the contract, was delayed by almost two weeks until the eve of the Christmas holidays.

Dr Gillian Braunold, chair of Brent and Harrow LMC, threatened to bring complaints against trusts if they failed to implement in time.

'PCOs have been wriggling on the hook saying it's not clear what their responsibilities are,' she said 'Well now it's crystal clear.'

GPs must reach a provisional agreement on the contract with their PCO by February 28. But if they cannot agree a deal they may have to sign the stop-gap default

contract, which is far less attractive.

Dr Rob Barnett, secretary of Liverpool LMC, said practices should not sign the default contract even if their PCO missed the deadline.

LMCs should try to reach a 'gentleman's agreement' with PCOs to broker deals on enhanced services after April in such circumstances, he added.

Full details of the default contract are scheduled to be published by February 13.

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