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Suffolk PMS chaos 'testbed' for UK

By Steve Nowottny

Gridlocked PMS contract negotiations in Suffolk will act as a ‘testbed' for the rest of the country, GP leaders are warning.

GPC negotiators called on 46 PMS practices in the county to ‘stand firm' in the face of what they called ‘inappropriately aggressive threats' from the PCT.

The practices have been given six months' notice of the termination of their contracts and told they must agree modified PMS contracts, which the GPC describes as ‘more work for less money'.

If they choose to revert to GMS contracts, they will not be given an MPIG.

Dr Laurence Buckman, the new GPC chair, said the offer broke then-health minister John Hutton's 2003 pledge that PMS GPs would be given an MPIG on return to GMS.

But subsequent guidance published by the Department of Health advises that ‘a PMS practice that wishes to revert to a GMS contract is not entitled to an MPIG'.

Dr Buckman said: ‘We regard this behaviour as bullying. If they serve termination notices, 500,000 patients will not have a GP come 1 January.'

He added that unilateral renegotiation of PMS contracts appeared to be part of a wider, worrying trend.

Earlier this year Coventry PCT told practices to renegotiate PMS contracts or switch to GMS contracts with no MPIG, but later backed down after talks with Coventry LMC.

GPC negotiator Dr Peter Holden urged GPs to maintain a united front. ‘The first practice that breaks ranks will be the practice that carries the blame for the collapse of general practice in Suffolk,' he said. ‘General practice is being sacrificed to bail out a failing trust.'

Melanie Craig, head of performance at Suffolk PCT, said it had made a number of concessions following ‘constructive negotiation' with the LMC.

‘We have been given feedback from the LMC that we have handled this matter professionally, which seems at odds with these accusations,' she said.

‘Although we do not have to offer an MPIG, we are offering an additional sum of money on top of the GMS contract, should the returning practice wish to maintain a higher level of income.'

‘We would only be asking the returning practices to be providing a limited number of extra services as part of a local enhanced service.'

But Bill Robinson, lay chief executive of Suffolk LMC, said the GMS offer had been passed to the GPC after local negotiations had been exhausted.

Practices from across Suffolk will meet on 8 August to consider the revised PMS offer.

Dr Peter Holden: urged GPs in Suffolk to maintain a united front Dr Peter Holden: urged GPs in Suffolk to maintain a united front

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