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Independents' Day

Throwaway remarks on a radio programme by former GPC negotiator came at a particularly bad time for GPs

Fradd's words no laughing matter

The former GPC negotiator at the centre of a media storm over the value of the GMS contract has defended describing the deal won by GPs as 'stunning'.

Dr Simon Fradd, a lead negotiator on the contract, caused outrage when he told BBC Radio Four's The Investigation that losing out-of-hours responsibility for just 6 per cent of income had been 'a bit of a laugh'.

'Nobody in my position had ever believed we could pull it off, but to get it for 6 per cent was a bit of a laugh,' he said.

Afterwards Dr Fradd, a GP in Nottingham and co-founder of Concordia Health, admitted: 'It was unfortunate that during the interview I made a light-hearted comment which has been the focus of publicity.'

He said he had wanted to get across the point that it was 'highly appropriate' that GP income had increased in light of additional 'highly labour intensive work' achieving clinical and managerial markers.

Current negotiators distanced themselves from Dr Fradd's remarks, which come as

the Government and the GPC battle over pay negotiations and GPs are taking a hammering

in the national media.

Dr Hamish Meldrum, GPC chair, said: 'I don't recognise Simon's description of what went on. There was give and take on both sides – to look at what we ended up agreeing on one issue is not particularly helpful.'

Dr Meldrum acknowledged the negotiations had not been conducted purely in a 'stony-faced atmosphere', but added: 'Those were hard-fought, realistic negotiations.'

Dr Stewart Drage, GPC negotiator, said: 'It's unfortunate

Simon's chosen to do a Simon at this time. It's easy with hindsight to sit back and reminisce about what jolly fun it was.'

Dr Eric Rose, a GPC subcommittee chair whose 220 signature letter protesting at negative portrayal of the profession was published in The Times last week, said: 'Simon is a seasoned enough politician to have known he needed to be more careful about what he was saying.'

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Tony Blair denied GPs were doing less, telling the BBC they were now offering a much better quality of service. And

Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt described the British GP service as 'the best in the world'.

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