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Tension over timetable for new contract

The GPC has accused the NHS Confederation of deliberately lowering GPs' expectations over how long it will be before they feel the full benefits of the new contract.

The comments are a clear sign of tension between the two sides as the negotiations reach their climax.

GPC negotiators spoke out after NHS Confederation lead negotiator Mike Farrar said it would take 'two or three years' for the contract to be fully implemented.

He told a conference last week that the timetable had to be 'realistic' because some

aspects of the contract would require primary legislation.

Transitional systems would be developed to bring things in as soon as possible, he added.

GPC Wales chair Dr Andrew Dearden said the confederation was 'misinforming' GPs and insisted they would be able to control their workload from next year.

If they were not able to, GPs would reject the contract in next year's ballot, he said.

'People have to remember part of negotiation is misinformation to lower expectations. GPs need to be aware of that and not believe everything that the other side says.'

Dr Dearden insisted that the implementation date remained April 1, 2003, and 80 to 85 per cent of the contract would be in operation soon

after that date.

GPC negotiator Dr Laurence Buckman warned the NHS Confederation that its messages about delays would not help to 'sell' the contract.

'This is something they're trying to say, presumably because it's what ministers want to hear,' he said.

He added that GPs wanted their workload reduced 'very quickly'. He said: 'I don't see why they should wait three years.'

Despite the negotiators' public comments, sources told Pulse that both sides know axing compulsory allocations and opting out of out-of-hours may not be achieved until 2005 in some areas.

GPs will feel the financial benefits of the quality markers early on, however.

Mr Farrar said the quality framework would be one of the first things implemented as it requires no legislation.

Dr David Jenner, NHS

Alliance contract lead, said out-of-hours and forced allocations were the 'tiger traps' of the new contract.

He said: 'They may only be 15 per cent of the contract but they are 85 per cent of GP concerns'.

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