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GP practices offered a ‘fair deal’, says health minister

Government plans to revamp the GP contract are a ‘fair deal’ and are not about imposing efficiency savings on practices, said a health minister today.

Speaking at the National Association of Primary Care’s (NAPC) annual conference today, Earl Howe told delegates that the Government’s proposals to radically change the funding of practices were not ‘set in stone’, but will be imposed on GPs if the BMA does not work with them.

Earl Howe told delegates in Birmingham that the Government wanted to offer a contract mutually acceptable to the DH and the BMA, but that if negotiations were not possible they would not ‘lose out’ on the ‘opportunity to make improvements for patients.’

Commenting on the proposed changes, he said: ‘We want the BMA to work with us making this happen. But I should say we won’t back away from making changes that will deliver better care for patients.’

He denied that the Government’s proposed contract changes, which include a raft of new QOF work, retirement of ‘organisational’ indicators and a gradual hike in QOF thresholds, are ‘set in stone’, but said the offer of a 1.5% pay increase to offset the extra work for GPs represented a ‘fair deal’ and was in line with others in the public sector.

Although he admitted that additional investment is ‘modest’, he added that contract changes are not about efficiency or reducing investment in general practice, as the BMA have suggested.

He said:  ‘They are about improving patient care, saving more lives and improving services. This is about driving up standards for all and we want the contract to reflect the most up-to-date standards of care.’ he said.

He also addressed concerns from the NAPC that changes to make practice funding more ‘equitable’ could mean the end of PMS contracts.

He said: ‘I would assure you there is nothing in our proposals that should or would mean the end of the PMS contract.

 ‘The principles underpinning our proposals for equity, fair funding between practice, fairness to patients, improving care and saving more lives should be fair for all practices and not just some.

 ‘The Government has been clear. Funding to practices should be fair and equitable, it should allow for the additional services that practices provide and will reflect the performances of practices against quality schemes.’