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Victory for GPs over IT choice

GPs are getting tough over unpaid work and issuing ultimatums to their PCOs to cough up the cash.

As the new contract enters its second year, the teething problems over enhanced service funding continue to rumble on in many areas.

Some LMCs have set deadlines for PCOs to pay up ­ or risk a boycott by GPs. But others have given up the fight and agreed to provide services for free.

Steve Mercer, Avon LMC chief executive, said some GPs were threatening to withdraw from the drug misuse enhanced service because it was 'grossly underfunded'. He said: 'GPs did it for a price last year which was much lower than the NES. It was designed and priced as a LES. Now some will say enough is enough.'

Worcestershire LMC is encouraging GPs to pull out of providing treatment room services if the PCT does not increase pay rates.

LMC secretary Dr Simon Parkinson said the services had been part of a basket deal in the first year of the contract but GPs were now demanding funding at the fully costed level of £1.06 per patient.

Dr Dean Marshall, medical secretary of Lothian LMC, said GPs' goodwill was running out and many would boycott minor injury and minor surgery services unless the PCO agreed a fee per procedure.

GPs in the Lake District forced a deal from Morecambe Bay PCT after Pulse reported their threat to boycott minor injuries work from April 1. Dr Ian Birket, a GP in Ambleside, said four practices had had to 'stamp and shout and scream' to win the local enhanced service deal of a £1,000 retainer and £50 per minor injury.

But GPs in other areas are divided over whether to continue with unfunded work.

Dr Nigel Watson, Wessex LMCs chief executive, said most practices in the area had agreed to do wound dressings for free. 'There are battles worth fighting but this is not one of them,' he said. Some practices had pulled out of providing first patient transport but others had carried on the work for nothing, he added.

GPC negotiator Dr Peter Holden predicted that GPs would 'increasingly say No' to unpaid work. He added: 'As hospital budgets get tighter there are attempts at shoving even more work across to us. But GPs are ever so painfully slowly getting more robust and learning to say No.'

He warned any practice planning to pull out of unpaid work to give at least one month's notice ­ and ideally three. 'The GMC would expect any doctor relinquishing a job to give sufficient notice to allow alternative services to be arranged.'

By Nerys Hairon

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