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New GP contract would be ‘serious mistake’, says GPC chair

A new GP contract would be a ‘serious mistake’ says GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman, after NHS England yesterday confirmed to Pulse that it will carry out a major review of primary care funding later this year.

Dr Buckman said that it was not a good time to review the contract, as the move to unify GMS and PMS funding was not complete, and that ‘no good can come of it’ in the current financial climate.

A motion to be discussed at the LMCs Conference this month, proposed by Sheffield LMC, proposes the conference: ‘agrees that the current GP contract is unfit for purpose’ and ‘instructs the GPC to ballot GPs on whether they should demand a new contract’.

Speaking at the Pulse Live conference yesterday, Professor Malcolm Grant, chair of NHS England, said the three ‘big things’ that the organisation would focus on this year would include how to incenvitise ‘medium term’ outcomes in primary care.

Professor Grant said that he was not in favour of redrawing the contract for GPs to take back out-of-hours care, in order to address the rising pressure on A&E departments, but that there did need to be a ‘joined up idea’ of the source of the problem.

Professor Grant said: ‘I am not really keen about the GP contract going through a battle every year, without a clear vision of where it is going.’

When asked if this meant there was going to be a fundamental review of the GP contract this year. Professor Grant agreed, saying: ‘It will be put out to consultation later this year’.

‘We have some big things to tackle - A&E, mortality rates in hospitals and the other is primary care.’ 

But Dr Laurence Buckman said: ‘Not only do I not think there is a need [to redraw the contract], I think now in a time of financial stringency that would be a serious mistake. Certainly a mistake for the profession, because at this moment no good can come of it.

‘I mean there is always a need to review the contract you have and consider whether you could improve it or do better. At this minute, that doesn’t seem to me like a very good time when you’re on a financial trajectory to merge PMS and GMS income streams. When you’ve got to sort out what you are going to do about PMS, now is not the time to do that.

‘At a time when the financial situation is different I am sure that is going to come under scrutiny, of course it must.’

Dr Buckman further referred to a comment made by Professor Grant regarding the frequency of contract negotiations, with Professor Grant saying he did not want them to be ‘a battle every year’.

Dr Buckman said: ‘I think that is something we certainly would understand. We don’t think it is right either. That hasn’t stopped the Government doing it though.’

He added that the GPC is set to form its official negotiating lines regarding the future of the GP contract at the annual LMCs Conference in London later this month. Although GPC negotiators face a no-confidence vote in a motion proposing the profession has ‘lost faith’ in their leadership over the outcomes of recent pensions and contract negotiations.