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Singlehanded GPs denied funds for extra staff costs

Singlehanded GPs could lose out under the new contract because the Government refused GPC demands for special funds to help small practices.

GPC joint-deputy chair Dr Hamish Meldrum said negotiators had pushed for extra money to cover singlehanders' proportionally higher staff costs. Ministers rejected their request to include an uplift in the global sum because they wanted small practices to work collaboratively, he said.

'The Department of Health has not opted to put in a factor for diseconomies of scale and that is what we are cross about,' Dr Meldrum said.

'The Government's argument was that they wanted to encourage collaboration. We support that but it's impossible to collaborate in a way

that makes small practices more efficient.'

GPs at larger practices will be able to share nurses and other staff and split the cost between them, but singlehanders will have to cover the entire cost of staff on their own.

Dr Meldrum said small practices would benefit from primary care organisations picking up IT and premises costs and would make up some lost resources by achieving higher quality.

Dr Stephen Fox, a GP in Leigh, Lancashire, said he would vote No because the lack of extra help was 'another nail in the coffin of singlehanders'.

He added: 'There is no allowance made for singlehanders at all. I was hoping we would be given special funding but the practice-based

aspect seems to be forcing practices together.'

Dr Mary Selvadurai, a singlehanded GP in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, said small practices needed extra funding to hire staff to input data for the quality markers: 'In a large practice they can employ staff full-time to do it, but we can't afford it.'

Dr Michael Taylor, chair of the Small Practices Association, said the contract produced a level playing field for singlehanders and most would be pleased.

He predicted that singlehanders would gain from the general increase in resources and their ability to achieve points in the quality and outcomes framework.

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