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Independents' Day

Trusts admit to enhanced funding fibs

GPs stand to lose thousands of pounds in pay because cash-strapped PCTs plan to relabel existing projects to meet a Government spending pledge on enhanced services.

Several trusts admitted they had used creative accounting to meet their enhanced service investment target set by Health Minister John Hutton.

Some are casting around for existing hospital and community-based services that can be placed under the banner.

The revelations will inflame GPs' fears that overspent PCTs will have no new money to fund enhanced services, making a mockery of negotiators' claims that GPs stand to earn up to £10,000 a year each.

Ministers are desperate for PCTs to meet the £315 million minimum investment pledge for enhanced services in England in 2003/4. But the Department of Health last week admitted officials were 'still chasing' several strategic health authorities that defied a May 27 deadline to confirm their intended spending.

Dr Ian Jack, chair of North Devon PCT professional executive committee and a GP in Barnstaple, said the trust had told the department it had committed its £918,000 target spend. But he added: 'It's difficult to say if we'll actually have £918,000 available. We did it imaginatively just like every other PCT.'

He said many PCTs had 'recycled money' to hit the deadline and avoid 'getting their heads chopped off'.

Dr Peter James, chair of Slough PCT professional executive committee, said it had confirmed its £689,000 target investment but added: 'We had to look at the primary care projects we had already put money into to see if [we could call them] an enhanced service.'

Dr John Moss, chair of Cheltenham and Tewkesbury PCT professional executive committee, said existing services had been redesignated to get within £50,000 of its £866,000 target. But Dr Moss, a GP in Leckhampton, added: 'We are still trying to find money we have already allocated.'

Last week's LMC conference ordered the GPC to push for quarterly monitoring of individual PCTs' spending.

GPC joint-deputy chair Dr Hamish Meldrum said: 'PCTs must allow LMCs to scrutinise accounts and make sure they're not trying to pull the wool over anyone's eyes.'

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