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‘Over half’ of Essex PMS practices set to switch to GMS under local agreement

Exclusive More than half of Essex PMS practices have signed up to switch to GMS with special financial protection from the NHS England area team.

Speaking to Pulse on Friday morning, the last working day that practices could sign up to the special deal, Essex LMC chair Dr Brian Balmer said half had signed up – from a total of 100 practices – and the number was still rising.

The deal, negotiated between the Essex LMC and the Essex area team of NHS England as an alternative to going through NHS England’s countrywide PMS reviews this year allows PMS practices to revert to GMS but with seven years’ worth of top-up payments. Although all PMS practices have the right to revert to a GMS contract at any given time, the Essex practices would see special treatment because of the transitional funding agreed.

Dubbed the ‘Essex factor’, the top-up payment will be worked out as the PMS ‘premium’ – in effect what the practices are being paid above and beyond what they would be paid on a GMS contract – so that once on a GMS contract the practices will still be paid their premium but it will be reduced by one-seventh each year for seven years.

Dr Balmer said: ‘I saw the area team yesterday, and slightly to my surprise it is well over 50% of our practices [who have signed up]. It sort of had a slow start but then people would have been evaluating and talking to their accountants. Yesterday it was about 50% and rising fast. There has been a rush in the last couple of days.’

NAPC chair Dr Charles Alessi, a supporter of the PMS contract, described the decision taken by over half of Essex practices as ‘sad’.

He said: ‘I think that is really sad because PMS is a contract that is locally determined and which gives local populations opportunities to get an even more bespoke service. I think that is regretful, because there is enormous opportunity in PMS.’

‘I would say [to these practices]: “Think very carefully before you do that, because things may be changing”.’

Please note: the headline and the story changed at 10:30 on 4 June, to reflect the fact that in the end 63 practices signed up – and not more than 100, as previously stated.