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PMS practices given stay of execution over contract changes

LMC leaders have forced managers to give GP practices a chance to justify the additional services they provide, after a PCT cluster threatened to unilaterally terminate all local PMS contracts with six months' notice.

The intervention by Birmingham LMC has meant that PMS practices have been given time to outline why their contracts are cost-effective and should not be altered, rather than having them terminated and a new contract imposed on them by managers.

Birmingham LMC protested to managers after learning that the Birmingham and Solihull PCT cluster was considering giving six-months' notice of termination of contract to all PMS practices in Birmingham and Solihull by the end of March this year.

The plans, from the cluster's family health services committee, say GP practices could be offered a new contract that, in most cases, resulted in considerably reduced funding on a ‘take it or leave it' basis.

The LMC said local plans to cut GP practice funding by £6m – a figure the PCT cluster has not confirmed – will endanger services to some of the country's most vulnerable patients. It said some practices will eventually lose over a third of their funding, estimating that the average funding loss will be over 20%.

After the LMC's intervention, the PCT decided to revise the plan by giving practices a 4 August deadline to justify their funding levels. The review will be completed in August or September, with notices or variations to the contracts to be served by 1 October.

The victory comes after the NAPC warned the Government that managers are ‘arbitrary slashing' PMS budgets and harming patient care by their ‘insistence' that practices revert to a GMS contract.

The warning comes after GP leaders warned of ‘catastrophic' cuts to PMS practice budgets, and the number of PMS GPs fell for the first time in six years.

Dr Robert Morley, chair of Birmingham LMC, said the softening of the PCT cluster's approach was welcome, but that the new plan is still too much of a ‘blunderbuss' approach.

He told Pulse: ‘Practices were, in effect, being told to sign new contracts with a gun to their heads and if they did not agree, or did not accept a switch to GMS, their contracts would have been terminated.

‘Birmingham LMC still remains very unhappy about the process and the way it is being implemented, and will continue to do our best to support our PMS practices in this matter. The LMC fears this will inevitably lead to cuts in current patient services above core, GP practice staff redundancies – including salaried GPs and nurses – and even risk the viability of smaller practices.'

A spokesperson for NHS Birmingham and Solihull said: ‘An equality impact assessment has been undertaken. It is our view that the programme of work will promote equality and patients will benefit from fairer funding to PMS practices.'

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