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Row after MPs claim GP contract has 'failed to meet expectations'

By Lilian Anekwe

GPs have again come under fire over rising salaries, in a report published by the Committee of Public Accounts today which claims the GP contract has ‘failed to live up to expectations'.

The report, which follows on from the stinging criticisms levied at GPs in the National Audit Office's assessment of the new GP contract, reiterates the NAO's claim that it has failed to deliver value for money to the patients at greatest need.

But GP leaders hit back, claiming the report was based on out of date figures, while the Tories said the failures of the contract were down to the Government's misunderstanding of the contribution of GPs.

The NAO report, published in February, criticised the Government for ‘wasting' £1.8billion more than it had budgeted for on a GP contract that largely benefitted GP partners – a 58% increases compared to the 15% originally expected – and failed to deliver improvements in care in deprived area.

The Public Accounts Committee's report, out today, follows similar lines.

Edward Leigh MP, chair of the committee, said: ‘The new contract for general practitioners in England, intended to deliver benefits by linking GPs' pay to their clinical performance, has so far failed to live up to expectations.

‘The new contract has not led to general practices being opened longer or at more convenient times for patients and has failed to improve services for deprived areas. Recent improvements in opening hours have been paid for out of additional money', he added.

Dr Laurence Buckman, who launched a fierce riposte when the original NAO report was published, said the Committee's report was based on largely out of date figures.

‘We are pleased the report recognises that the contract has had benefits for patients and the NHS. However, the GP contract is now quite different to the deal originally agreed in 2003 and much of the criticism in this report is based on an out-of-date understanding of the current situation.'

Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley said: ‘I am not surprised that this report is so highly critical of Labour's botched handling of the negotiations over the GP contract.

‘The open conflict between Labour and family doctors is a direct result of the Government's attempts to undo their own mistakes in the original negotiations.

‘It is important that GPs are properly rewarded for their hard work, but the Government's complete failure to understand the level of service they provide has left us with the worst of all worlds – GPs paid more than originally intended but left demotivated by how they have been treated.'

The Committee's report also emphasises the need for future QOFs to be ‘better aligned to national health priorities, and give more weight to achieving health outcomes, rather than clinical practices which are easy to measure.'

They also called for a ‘sufficiently robust' measure of productivity, which decreased annually by an average of 2.5% according to the NAO, and which Dr Buckman described as ‘crude.'

Latest attack on GPs based on out of date figures Latest attack on GPs based on out of date figures

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