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Row erupts over £500 deduction from GP pay

GPC negotiators are warning GPs to add a caveat to agreements over their final income for this year because of a Government move that could knock £500 from their pay.

The advice came after negotiators became embroiled in a row with the Department of Health over a formula used to convert practice accounts from cash to accruals.

The department has work-ed out GPs should lose 0.44 per cent from their gross income when their cash accounts, the actual amount of money received during 2002/3, the calculation year for the new contract, is converted to accruals – the money due to the practice in that period.

The conversion factor is usually positive to account for inflation.

Medical accountants said GPs stood to lose around £500 a year per full-time doctor if the negative factor – 0.9956 – was applied.

Negotiators advised GPs to add a caveat to global sum equivalent agreements due to be signed this month with their primary care organisation advising that the deal is 'subject to discussions at a national level'.

Practices could also use the formal dispute resolution procedure to tackle the issue.

GPC negotiator Dr Laurence Buckman said the issue was 'not done and dusted by any means'.

He added: '[The Government] has said that when you move from cash to accruals you automatically reduce the income. But normally accruals go up. Our economists say it ought to go up, not down.'

Dr Graham Platt, a singlehanded GP in Trafford, Greater Manchester, said he had queried his MPIG after his accountants said he ought to be receiving £3,500 more than PCO figures suggested.

'I think I am being shaved of money by some other error as well as cash to accruals,' he said. 'But the sum I am going to lose over cash to accruals equates to the same amount they are promising me for access.'

Rosemary Smith, GP liaison manager at accountants Sandison Easson, said some trusts were applying the factor and others were not.

She added: 'There are a lot of inconsistencies between PCTs. A lot of trusts have dropped it because they do not think it's fair.'

She added the department may have come up with a negative accruals factor because the average item-of-service payment in England had gone down in three successive years from 2000 to 2003.

By Nerys Hairon

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