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PMS 'safety net' attracts GPs

GPs are applying in droves for PMS as an insurance policy against the potential collapse of the new GMS contract, with GPC members leading the way.

LMCs have reported many more GPs registering interest in the PMS 5b wave due to begin in October than has been the case for previous rounds. Wessex LMCs said around 30 Hampshire practices are applying, compared with just six in the last wave.

Of 10 GPC members contacted by Pulse last week, two are applying for PMS and three more are considering registering an interest. Two are already working under PMS.

The figures are a boost to the Government, which is widely predicted to push for a national PMS scheme if the contract is rejected. But the switch away from GMS ahead of the proposed new contract is a serious blow to GPC negotiators.

The PMS 5a wave which began this month is thought to have been popular, and will bring the number of PMS GPs to more than one-third of the total.

Dr Peter Fellows, GPC prescribing sub-committee chair and a GP in Lydney, Gloucestershire, said GPs had to be realistic about the future. 'We have applied as insurance,' he said. 'We have been offered an extra doctor and nurse on PMS and will be financially better off.'

Dr Gillian Braunold, GPC member and chair of Brent and Harrow LMC, said she would apply for the May 2004 wave.

She said: 'It would be foolish of us not to explore PMS, although we feel very strongly that we should not be lodged in a unified budget.'

Dr Alan Middleton, GPC member and a GP in Fowey, Cornwall, said he would 'take a look' at PMS. He added: 'GPs are saying, let's take the bribe now, we can always come back.'

Dr Bob Button, chief executive of Wessex LMCs, said the Government was continuing to pour money into PMS to entice GPs. 'It's an insurance policy, an option they can always turn down,' he added.

But Dr Grant Kelly, a GPC member and GP in Chichester, West Sussex, said GPs applying now would be in a weak bargaining position and would not get as much for switching to PMS.

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