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PCTs warned to prepare for new contract Yes vote

The NHS Confederation has appealed to PCTs to prepare for the new contract amid growing fears that trusts' lack of readiness will severely delay its implementation for many GPs.

With just five weeks until the fully priced contract is published, NHS Confederation lead negotiator Mike Farrar told trusts it was 'critical' they take action now.

His plea, in a letter to managers last week, comes after the GPC accused the confederation of deliberately lowering GPs' expectations over how long it will take to implement the deal.

In the letter, Mr Farrar said: 'It is essential that primary care organisations begin now to understand the consequences of the new contract and the implications of implementation in anticipation of a Yes vote.'

GPs fear their ability to cut workload, through measures in the contract such as the ending of forced allocations and opting out of on-call work, will depend on how prepared their individual trust is.

Trailblazing trusts are expected to allow GPs to opt out soon after the official start date of April 2003, but under-prepared PCTs may not be ready before 2005.

Dr Brian Balmer, a GPC member and chief executive of Essex LMCs, said it had been 'screamingly obvious' that trusts needed to make preparations for the new contract.

'Now is the time to start gearing trusts up to the fact that this is the chance to save primary care,' he said.

But Dr David Jenner, professional executive committee lead for the NHS Alliance, said primary care organisations could be 'all dressed up with nowhere to go' if the contract is rejected by GPs.

Meanwhile, the GPC appears divided on what transitional arrangements are needed to bring an immediate end to forced allocations.

GPC Wales chair Dr Andrew Dearden said practices could employ more salaried GPs in the first year of the contract. 'If a primary care organisation would like a practice to help them provide services they will need the resources up front,' he said.

But fellow negotiator Dr Laurence Buckman said it was not 'hugely realistic' to give practices more money to deal with allocations.

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