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GPC tries to limit damage to practices as contract imposition looms

The GPC has warned practices to prepare for the biggest funding cuts in the history of the new GP contract, after admitting it can do little to stop the Government imposing sweeping changes.

Negotiators have asked economists to model the likely impact of the changes, and will hold roadshows and survey GPs early next year as they prepare to respond to the Department of Health’s formal consultation.

They are also set to resume meetings with the DH over the changes, but said their focus was now on ensuring the impact of any imposition was ‘as minimal as it can be’.

The DH began a 12-week consultation on its proposed deal last week, clearing the way for an imposition in April. In a 37-page letter, it set out in detail the raft of new QOF work that practices will be asked to take on, and outlined four new directed enhanced services that will be funded by a 10% reduction in the size of the QOF.

The DH also announced vaccination programmes for rotavirus and shingles and preparations for the phasing-out of the MPIG from April 2014.

The DH said a series of meetings with the GPC were scheduled over the next few months and it hoped negotiators would attend.

GPC negotiators said they would take part in the consultation, which they warned must not be a ‘rubber-stamping exercise’, but cautioned practices should expect the worst.

GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman said: ‘The GPC always engages with consultation. That is the way we ameliorate an imposition. My duty is to ensure that the imposition is as minimal as it can be.’

Asked if the GPC could realistically expect to block the imposition as a whole, GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘No, I think there will be some contractual changes for 2013/14. We would hope to convince the Government that all their plans, taken as a whole, are not deliverable. We would hope that they would listen to the concerns from the profession.’

GPC negotiator Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘This is basically the most significant quantum reduction in the GP contract that we’ve ever seen since the new contract. You’ve got a double whammy of defunding the contract and then piling on more work.’

The GPC said it would organise roadshows around the country to explain the impact of the DH’s proposed deal and seek the views of the profession through a survey early next year, although it was too early to say what questions GPs would be asked or how it could use the results.

Last month, Dr Buckman told LMC secretaries at their annual conference that a boycott of commissioning in protest at the contract changes ‘wouldn’t work’ because too many GPs were already involved in commissioning.

Dr Ivan Camphor, Mid-Mersey LMC secretary, said some LMC secretaries had unofficially discussed calling an emergency LMCs conference, although no plans had yet been formulated.

He said: ‘Everyone is fed up with doing more for less. We are working from 7.30 in the morning to eight or nine in the evening. There is a huge amount of unrest, anger and frustration and it is not going to go away.’

Dr Rob Barnett, chair of Liverpool LMC, said: ‘If you want to destroy general practices, this is the way to do it. It is not workable.’