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PCTs improve but lag behind in star ratings

I read with interest the article 'Hunt is on for UK's lowest earning GP' (News, June 16). As mentioned there, I have been contacting PCTs in order to narrow the field, and we will in the fullness of time be presenting a trophy to the NHS's most impecunious doc.

This is all rather jolly ­ but there is a serious point. The Government (and, for that matter, the profession's negotiators) is keen to emphasise the success of the new contract.

A typical headline tells us that half the GPs in the country are earning over £100,000. There are losers as well as winners, however, and I want to give them a voice ­ for their sake and for that of their patients.

In July 2002, the Audit Commission published examples of a postcode lottery in primary care. One example was Oxfordshire where there were twice as many GPs per head of population as there were in Gateshead (and twice the funding).

There is strong evidence, however, that the disparities are greater within PCTs than they are between PCTs. I can cite an example of a major discrepancy within a single postcode.

The point of the exercise, then, is that there are implications for patient care. By and large we GPs do the best we can with the resources made available to us so you can usually expect to get a reasonable standard of service from a well-funded practice and vice versa.

Despite the inspiration and perspiration that went into the new contract, there are certainly major flaws. And looking at the wider picture, the 'new improved' NHS is a good place to start if you want to find examples of 'starvation in the midst of plenty'.

There is more money than ever sloshing around ­ and yet ever greater sums are being squandered, leaving many of us at the sharp end scratching around in order to care for our patients.

If you think you are in the running for the title of 'lowest earning GP', please do as the article suggests and contact pulse@cmpinformation.com

Dr John Cormack

South Woodham

Essex

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