Exclusive GPs leaders in England are pushing ahead with plans to develop new structures that will enable GPs to carry out more private work in a bid to increase GP funding, Pulse has learnt.
The chair of Oxfordshire LMC told Pulse that they have been in discussions with LMCs across England about implementing new structures by the end of the year that will allow GPs to charge fees for carrying out non-contractual work.
Current rules prevent GPs from charging their own patients for care, but Oxfordshire LMC chair Dr Prit Buttar said they have developed models using third-party companies that would ’allow practices to take on what they want’.
The LMC said last year it was developing a ‘Plan B’ to take GPs out of the NHS, following the lead of Northern Ireland, where the GPC is set to vote on collecting practice resignations later this month.
It was, in part, a response to the UK GPC abandoning plans to ballot practices on mass resignation from the NHS, after receiving reassurances from NHS England that it was willing to consider the GPC’s proposals to alleviate pressures on GPs.
Dr Buttar told Pulse that the plans for GPs to provide more private services at the expense of NHS work have moved forward, and he expected to have a model for alternative working in place by the end of 2017.
He said: ‘We have to look at alternative ways of increasing funding and look at models which will allow practices to operate within the rules. They will offer practice services, for example if someone wants a minor operation but can only do this in an evening then they can do this by charging a small fee.
’It will allow GPs to value their own time more and puts pressure on the Government. The Government is a monopoly customer, they can dictate how much they are willing to pay.’
Under the plans, GPs will be able to provide private services to their own patients by working through a third party company, which would take payment from patients and then pay GPs for their time.
Dr Buttar said: ‘We want to put in place something which is robust which can be rolled out across the country and will allow GPs to specify which services they want to provide.’
He added: ’We are in preliminary discussions with other LMCs to come up with terms of reference. We want to get something in operation by the end of the year.’
GP leaders in other parts of the country agreed that the current situation was untenable but that they would wait to see if promised improvements to the GP contract would come into force before contemplating handing back contracts.
Wallsall LMC medical secretary and GPC member Dr Uzma Ahmad said that while some conditions had improved for GPs, it remained to be seen whether promises made by NHS England in the GP Forward View would be met.
Dr Ahmad said: ‘We are going to wait for 3 months – if nothing positive comes up I think other regions might follow this plan. We need to safeguard ourselves, there has to be some other way to continue to practice. I don’t intend to leave the country, so I will need to find another way to practice here.’
What happened to GPC’s threat to collect mass resignations from GPs?
The LMCs Conference last May called on the GPC to ballot practices on collecting resignations from the NHS unless an adequate support package was put in place to rescue general practice.
However, the GPC announced in August 2016 that it would not ballot members on potentially submitting undated resignations or industrial action after claiming that it has won concessions on workload from NHS England.
The GPC said GP ‘reluctance’ over the plan was also a reason for calling off plans, but Pulse revealed that some LMCs are drawing up explosive ‘plan B’ alternatives of their own.
Pulse’s recent survey of 1,000 GPs also showed that half of GP partners are willing to resign the NHS and go private.
In Northern Ireland, the GPC is set to collect resignations by the end of this month.