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The waiting game

Rush to PMS slows as GPs predict an end to the pay gap

By Nerys Hairon

More than two in five GPs are now in PMS practices, new Government figures show.

But the attraction of switching to the local GP contract is fading with far fewer practices making the move in the latest 5b wave.

GPs predicted PMS numbers would now stall or even fall because the new GMS contract would close the financial gap.

Department of Health statistics show 353 PMS pilots covering an estimated 1,159 GPs went live in October last year, taking the proportion of PMS GPs from 38 to 41 per cent.

But the rise is well down on the previous two waves, which included more than 700 practices each.

Dr Andy Stewart, a member of Cornwall and Isles of Scilly LMC, said the difference between the two contracts would be 'minimal' in a year's time and predicted GPs would 'drift away from PMS into GMS'.

He said: 'The Government feels they have got to run the two systems but the need for PMS will rapidly vanish if GMS delivers all its promises.'

Dr Russell Walshaw, secretary of Northern Lincolnshire and East Yorkshire LMCs, said a 'handful' of PMS practices in the area were considering returning to GMS.

Health minister John Hutton has vowed PMS 'is here to stay'.

He recently announced new flexibilities for PMS GPs, including the ability to modify the GMS quality framework or ditch basic care and focus on specialist services, in order to maintain a distinction between the two contracts.

But Somerset LMC medical secretary Dr Harry Yoxall said the two contracts were now effectively 'working under one umbrella'.

He added: 'There are no longer huge advantages in jumping from one to the other.'

Dr Peter Smith, chair of the National Association of Primary Care, said the argument about which contract was better 'is not a discussion anyone needs to have any more ­ it's about what is best for the patients, the days of it being a competition are over.'

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