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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Popularity of PMS has held back GMS funds, says Milburn

Health Secretary Alan Milburn has claimed the popularity of PMS is the reason why GMS GPs have had just a

1 per cent increase in funding in the past year.

When asked at a recent Health Select Committee meeting why primary care funding increases were far lower than the 9.7 per cent extra received by secondary care, Mr Milburn said the GMS figure was artificially low.

'If you look at the PMS figure there was quite an increase,' he said.

'Why? Basically it is a better lifestyle opportunity for many younger GPs, rather than being a partner in a GP partnership, instead to become salaried.'

In his answer to Dr Doug Naysmith MP, Mr Milburn said average annual primary care spending had risen by 4.1 per cent in real terms between 1997/8 and 2000/1.

The Department of Health told Pulse that PMS spending rose by 98 per cent between 1999/2000 and 2000/2001.

Mr Milburn's comments angered GPs who have been denied GMS resources and told by trusts that the only way to get extra funds was to go

into PMS.

GPC member Dr Chaand Nagpaul said many GPs did not see PMS as a choice but as the only way to survive.

'It's notable that the Secretary of State is openly acknowledging a two-tier level of investment in general practice,' he said. 'Funding has ended up in PMS not GMS. That is shameful given the supposed commitment to equity.'

GPC negotiator Dr Simon Fradd said Mr Milburn was making it harder to solve

the recruitment and retention crisis by not supporting GMS as much as PMS.

'We all know PMS is favoured,' he said. 'I know of no instance where a PMS pilot has not had extra funding.'

Despite GPC belief that GMS and PMS will merge in the future, the Government is adamant that the two contracts will co-exist.

In an article for the British International Doctors Association, primary care tsar Dr David Colin-Thome said PMS 'will remain an option'. He added the current 'process-oriented and always nationally negotiated' GMS contract had helped recruit GPs to PMS.

'[It] certainly does not address the fact that general practice is the most inequitably distributed and resourced part of the NHS,' he said.

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