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GP leaders accused of failing ‘bullied’ PMS practices

By Ian Quinn

GPC and LMC leaders have been accused of letting down PMS practices and allowing them to be bullied into submission in contract renegotiations with trusts.

In a stinging attack, the National Association of Primary Care claimed PMS practices across the country had received a lack of support and in some cases have been actively advised to cave in to unfair and potentially illegal PCT demands.

The claim, strongly rejected by the GPC, comes after Pulse exclusively revealed earlier this week that PMS practices are beginning to be forced back to GMS contracts as a consequence of a brutal round of negotiations launched by trusts, backed by a remit from the Department of Health.

Dr Peter Smith, vice president of the NAPC, told Pulse: ‘LMCs and the GPC have offered little or no constructive help to PMS members.'

‘There are one or two notable exceptions where LMCs have got behind practices but there have been many cases where LMCs have said "you're just going to have to accept this, we can't do anything more".'

‘Collusion is a strong word but they are allowing PMS practices to be used as scapegoats.'

Pulse revealed how in Gloucestershire, 26 out of 30 PMS practices have already quit their PMS contracts and returned to GMS, after NHS managers systematically drove down their funding.

In Northumberland, the majority of PMS practices are also embarking on negotiations to make the switch with LMC leaders openly speculating that the writing is on the wall for PMS contracts.

Dr Smith said that PMS practices in many other PCTs are now considering following suit - but claimed they are doing so at least partly because they have not been given backing from the GPC and LMCs to fight the clampdown.

‘It's very sad. I can't remember a time when practices have been bullied and intimidated like this and their union should be standing up for them.'

Dr Smith claimed the lack of advice from the GPC stemmed from its hostility towards the whole concept of PMS.

‘I was involved at the start of PMS and it was very clear at the time that the GPC was opposed to it. The result is that PMS practices are feeling too frightened to speak out and nobody is standing up for them.'

‘But at the very least PMS practices need to be aware of their basic contractual rights.'

He added: ‘We know of one practice, that was supported supposedly by its LMC, which has been told it must accept a massive reduction in its baseline funding by 31 March or have its contract terminated. This needs to be challenged.'

But GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman told Pulse the GPC had made a 'substantial effort' to protect PMS practices.

'We have provided detailed support and advice, including legal advice, to LMCs and practices, and made representations at the highest levels,' he said.

'GPC negotiators have attended numerous meetings across the country in support of PMS practices. In addition local BMA officers have worked with practices facing these challenges. '

He added: 'The Government has repeatedly refused to allow GPC to negotiate for PMS but this has never stopped us from working tirelessly for all GPs, whatever their contractual status. The PCTs who have chosen to damage PMS practices and reduce the services they are able to offer are responsible for the present state of PMS, not the GPC and LMCs who will continue to devote substantial resources to supporting our colleagues.'

Dr Peter Smith: claims the GPC has let down PMS practices Dr Peter Smith: claims the GPC has let down PMS practices