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Pension treatment is unjust

By Rob Finch

Thousands of newly qualified GPs are missing out on up to £5,000 each because of Government cuts in deanery funding.

Deaneries are being forced to ration higher professional education (HPE) support or scrap it altogether as they struggle to keep the number of registrar places up in the face of growing cash shortages.

HPE funding is meant to cover 20 days' locum costs for practices to replace the GP, plus £450 travelling expenses and course fees. But newly-qualified GPs and GP trainers said the cash had been a 'soft target'.

Swingeing cuts were made to deanery funding last year and although 'indicative' budgets show a 7.4 per cent average increase for 2005/6, some areas have been given only 4.7 per cent.

Dr John Howard, associate director of GP education for the Mersey deanery and a GP in Crewe, said cuts in allocations for HPE were causing a postcode lottery. 'It's a worrying signal,' he said. 'Some deaneries have decided they haven't been able to offer any at all. We have decided to cut it in half.'

Professor Tim van Zwanenburg, director for postgraduate general practice education at the Northern deanery, said it may have to ration HPE funding. He added: 'It's a high priority, but then everything's a high priority.'

Dr Kate Adams, a flexible career scheme GP in east London currently doing higher professional education, said her funding dropped from £4,000 to £1,000 in just eight months and then disappeared altogether.

'It's a tragedy and it's typical of how the NHS works,' she said. 'It's the best professional development thing I'm doing and if it wasn't around I'd be doing very little.'

rfinch@cmpinformation.com

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