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GP funding to increase by 1.16% from April

The Government has today accepted the Review Body on Doctors’ and Dentists’ Remuneration (DDRB) recommendations for a 1.16% increase to GP contractors’ funding, it has announced.

Once the expenses of running their businesses are taken into account, this equals a 1% increase to GP take-home pay in England for 2015/16, the Department of Health claimed.

Last year, the Government accepted a DDRB-recommended contract uplift of just 0.28 per cent

Health minister Lord Howe said: ’Our strong economy means we have been able to accept the recommendation for a one per cent increase to GPs’ pay, broadly in line with other healthcare workers.

‘GPs do a vital job and are at the centre of our plans as we move more care out of hospital closer to people’s homes. Once expenses of running their businesses are taken into account, GPs will receive a 1.16 per cent increase to their contract.

‘The government has further invested in general practice through a £150 million fund to improve patient access. The Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund is offering millions of patients evening and weekend appointments, as well as more video, email and telephone consultations.

‘Plans to move care out of hospital closer to people’s homes and upgrade surgeries to improve GP services will be supported by a £1.2 billion fund.’

However, Family Doctor Association chair Dr Peter Swinyard said he found the uplift ‘depressing’.

He added: ‘I think it’s grossly inadequate, I think the statistics are that the average GP partner’s pay has dropped something like 25% in the last seven or eight years. It’s less bad than last year, but it still delivers a pay cut for quite a lot of people.

‘In all honesty I know the difficulties the public finances are in, but we needed 5% to have any chance of improving recruitment and retention.

‘If you look at the fact we’re losing seniority [pay], we’re losing MPIG, and we’re gaining 1.16% or something. It’s not a sum that adds up.’

For the first time, the DDRB did not use a heavily questioned formula approach to detemine GP uplift, after concluding in its report that this has not delivered the desired pay uplift for GPs ‘for some time’.

The report said: ‘Our decision not to use the formula-based approach was influenced by a decline in GMPs’ real income towards levels seen before the introduction of the new GMS contract. This indicated to us that the formula has not delivered our previously recommended increases in pay for some time, and led us to consider an increase in pay net of expenses of above 1%.

‘Our terms of reference, however, also require us to take account of affordability and the evidence here would support an increase in the 0 to 1 per cent range. On balance, our recommendation for independent contractor GMPs in all countries of the United Kingdom is for an increase in pay net of expenses of 1 per cent.’

The DDRB also called for urgent collection of more evidence on how pay levels may improve the poor record on GP recruitment.

The report said: ‘In considering pay net of expenses for independent contractor GMPs, we are concerned by the poor fill rates for general practice training: this shows… that fill rates are a particular issue for both Scotland and England, especially in small towns and rural areas.

‘At the same time, we note the action that is being taken by NHS England to address recruitment into general practice, and we were struck by the apparent agreement between the parties that the main issues were related to increasing workforce numbers, controlling workload and improving the condition of premises.

‘Clearly not all of these issues are pay related, although we do consider that pay has a role to play in influencing career decisions. However, employer staff survey evidence that we receive only focuses on hospital doctors. The evidence provided to us on the motivation of GMPs was therefore limited, and we urge the parties to give priority for the collection of better evidence in this area.’

Last year’s 0.28% uplift to the GP contractual funding was based on the DDRB’s formula for expenses calculations, which the DDRB itself recognised was flawed. The GPC called it a ‘kick in the teeth’ and accountants estimated that it would lead to a cut in drawings for individual GPs of up to 7.5%.