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The year through the pages of Pulse

Find out what made headlines in 2009, in our review of the major GP news and developments from the past 12 months

By Pulse news desk

Find out what made headlines in 2009, in our review of the major GP news and developments from the past 12 months


The year began with the national rollout of vascular checks enveloped in confusion, after the Department of Health instructed NICE to look again at the evidence for using the QRISK tool instead of Framingham. The institute was also the focus on a withering attack from GP leaders, over DH plans to hand it a powerful role in overhauling the QOF. And the Government's plans for Darzi centres were also under fire, with a committee of MPs criticising the decision to impose the centres on every PCT.


The GPC admitted scrapping the QOF square root formula would trigger the closure of dozens or even hundreds of practices, raising questions over why they had signed up to the deal. The Government unveiled plans for PCTs to publish school report-style balanced scorecards of GP performance – there would be plenty more about them later in the year. Meanwhile, a Pulse investigation revealed the Government's extended hours drive had stripped millions in funding from small practices.


From extended hours to in-hours closing, with a Pulse investigation revealing NHS managers were waging a campaign to stop practices closing their doors at lunch-times. The BMA and RCGP announced plans to develop GP federations as part of an overhaul of the general practice business model, which they warned had become ‘unsustainable' due to the shortage of partnerships. Sainsbury's, meanwhile, were developing their own business model, for a network of in-store GPs.


The Government agreed to uplift the GMS contract by a gross 2.29%, in a deal that took thousands of GPs off the MPIG. Regulatory trouble brewed, however, with Pulse revealing that modelling suggested as many as one GP in seven might have to do some retraining under RCGP plans for revalidation. The CQC took up its regulatory duties this month, with its chair Baroness Young unveiling plans for GP risk profiles to weed out the ‘mad, bad and dangerous'.


Pulse revealed PCT spending on management consultants had more than tripled in the past two years as the NHS threw millions at the private sector. The DH was getting in on the act too, prompting disgust among GP leaders after handing McKinsey the job of drawing up a national balanced scorecard. Pulse revealed PCTs were drawing up plans to relax the rules on patient registration, in a precursor to plans announced later in the year to scrap practice boundaries altogether.


NHS managers prepared to terminate the contracts of practices that were failing to meet access targets on, you guessed it, balanced scorecards. Changes to the patient survey provoked uproar among GPs, with some practices set to lose out to the tune of £25,000. And the long-awaited flu pandemic hit the UK, prompting predictable, if perhaps unnecessary, panic.


GPs faced a huge explosion in their workload as the first wave of swine flu hit hot spots hard, with GP leaders launching a furious attack on the Government's handling of the outbreak. Leading GP academic Professor Martin Roland earned widespread applause after warning the Government had got the GP Patient Survey ‘seriously wrong' by ignoring continuity of care. And a Pulse investigation that later landed us an award showed Darzi centres were hugely better funded than GMS practices.


The BMA found itself with a rebellion on its hands after a group of salaried GPs and locums were exclusively revealed by Pulse to be planning a breakaway to join rival union the Medical Practitioners' Union. Nearly half of GPs rejected calls for them to be vaccinated against swine flu, according to our poll. NICE's controversial remaking of the QOF continued apace, wit the institute revealing plans to retire a series of indicators it considered were already embedded in general practice.


General practice was plunged into a deepening crisis with our survey revealing as many as two-thirds of salaried GPs and locums were considering a switch to the MPU. A damning official report into the Summary Care Record revealed there was precious little evidence the rollout had had any benefit so far. Good news for women though, with a DH report recommending a series of new contractual rights, including PCTs to cover maternity pay and tax breaks on childcare.


The Treasury demanded a net pay freeze for GPs, submitting evidence to the Doctors' and Dentists' Review Body calling for a gross uplift of just 0.5%.

NHS Choices launched its controversial ratings service for GP practices and it is deluged with more than 1,600 comments in the first 24 hours, most of them positive.

And Pulse had a guest editor, with Dr Michelle Drage's issue revealing GPs had been forced out of their jobs on the say-so of a private firm's report.


Healthcare for London's plans for ‘children's GPs' raised fears that general practice might lose its lead role in paediatric care. Some good news on the Darzi centre front, though, with NHS Camden forced by a legal challenge into a landmark backtrack, placing the legality of the entire rollout in doubt. Swine flu pandemic planning, including a massive vaccination campaign, was made to look like a huge overreaction after figures showed in some areas a third of children had already had the illness.


The BMA launches its election manifesto with a call for whoever forms the next Government to offer incentives to GP practices to take on more partners, in an attempt to offer more opportunities for young and salaried doctors.

The BMA also launches a major consultation at grassroots level in a bid to strengthen the representation of salaried GPs, which a new interview based study concludes are often being treated as poorly by traditional practices as by private firms.

Pulse magazine 11 November 2009 Pulse magazine 14 October 2009 Pulse magazine 10 April 2009 Pulse magazine 02 September 2009 Pulse magazine 28 October 2009 Pulse magazine 11 March 2009

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