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One in seven GPs forced to make redundancies since April

Exclusive Around one in seven practices has had to make staff redundancies since April to offset the funding squeeze caused by the Government’s imposed contract.

A Pulse survey of 448 GPs has showed that practices have taken a range of efficiency measures since the imposed contract came into force on 1 April, including partners slashing their drawings by more than 20%.

Although the GPC has warned that this was the likely effect of the contract changes - which forced GPs to work harder to receive QOF payments while giving them a below-inflation pay increase of 1.32% - this is the first clear evidence that practices are having to cut back on staff and reduce patient services since April.

The measures have included 14% of practices making some form of redundancies and 15% cutting back on patient services. Almost a quarter of practices - 23.2% - have had to cut staff hours since April.

Most GPs said they had to lay off admin staff, which 11% of respondents said they had done since April. Five percent laid off clinical staff and a further 5% laid of salaried GPs.

But partners are also taking a hit, with 304 out of the 368 GP partners who responded saying they have reduced drawings since April, and more than one in ten reducing drawings by 20% and over.

The news of GPs having to make these swingeing cuts comes as NHS England has said it wants to discuss increased patient access as part of this year’s GP contract negotiations.

The GP contract terms for 2013/14 - under which GPs are no longer paid for administration costs that were previously part of the QOF, are working to new tougher QOF targets and higher QOF thresholds - were imposed on the profession after the Government pulled out of annual negotiations with the GPC.

Respondents to the survey laid bare the lengths they are having to go to following the contract changes. One GP said their practice was ‘looking at reducing salaried doctors and replacing with non-practitioners’, while another in Merseyside said they had resorted to hand-delivering post to patients. A partner in Leicestershire said: ‘We do not feel able to alter anything else without making services unsafe.’

Deputy GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘This is alarming but sadly predictable and we highlighted that this would be the inevitable result of the government’s unjustified contract imposition. Not only will it further undermine the morale of GPs and their staff but could also have an impact on the service offered by practices. Patients should be clear that the government are responsible for what practices have been left with no alternative to do.’

One GP, who wanted to remain anonymous after having to cut back staff hours and make administrative staff redundant, said: ‘We had to take these measures because of continual year-after-year cuts to the practice’s funding. Although there has been a 1.25% uplift to the contract this year that leaves at least a 4-5% increase in expenses.

‘If you add to that the QOF targets that we won’t be going for because we think they are clinically unsafe and jeopardising the health of our patients, we can’t try to recoup funds there, so we have to make cuts elsewhere.’