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Quality changes mean GPs will have to guess their pay

GPs will have to make an educated guess at how much they would earn under a new quality pay system if the GPC opts for an early ballot, the NHS Confederation has warned.

Mike Farrar, lead negotiator for the confederation, said he is 'committed' to ensuring achievement payments reflect workload when they are introduced next April.

But talks to hammer out the details of a system to weight payments according to practice disease prevalence could not be rushed, meaning GPs would have to 'make assumptions' when trying to estimate likely income, he said.

Mr Farrar told Pulse: 'It will be difficult to find a methodology that would be accurate in the time available. One option is to go ahead with some form of disease-based practice prevalence level in April 2004. We are committed to this in principle. The downside is we don't think it can be done in the next two to three weeks.'

He added: 'If the ballot goes ahead GPs would have to make some assumptions about what it means for them. Many GPs already know that if, for example, they have a high ethnic minority in their area then there may be a higher prevalence of a particular disease.'

Health Minister John Hutton has made clear any change to quality payments must be cost-neutral. He warned it 'would inevitably lead to some being relatively worse off'.

GPC chair Dr John Chis-holm said it would be necessary to do 'quite a lot of modelling and testing before plumping for a definitive way forward' on quality pay.

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