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Was it Pulse wot won it in Northern Ireland?

Amid all the doom and gloom surrounding GPs at the moment, a rare piece of unexpected good news. GPs in Northern Ireland have secured a negotiated contract settlement at the eleventh hour.

By all accounts they’ve done well, certainly better than their counterparts in England  – a 1.5% funding uplift, no forced removal of MPIG,  a smaller number of QOF indicator threshold increases and other QOF concessions as well.

How did they manage it? Well, somewhat embarrassingly for the BMA, which has shunned all talk of a commissioning boycott in England, it appears that it was the GPC’s threat to withdraw support from commissioning proposals in Northern Ireland that was crucial.

As the Belfast Telegraph reported a couple of weeks ago (also covered in Pulse here), health minister Edwin Poots had faced a ‘revolt by GPs’ over his Transforming Your Care health reforms. Now, Northern Irish GPC chair Dr Tom Black says, the contract concessions have won GPs back onside.

But there might have one other factor as well.

Dr Black says he went into every negotiating session armed with a secret weapon – the February edition of Pulse magazine, which included a one-page guide detailing the gradual fragmentation of the UK-wide GMS contract.

‘Northern Ireland had five stars for excess workload,’ Dr Black told our senior reporter Sofia Lind. ‘I think the other side were surprised that their imposition was seen as so harsh and were impressed with the third-party report.’

So, was it Pulse wot won it? Well, maybe not - GPC Northern Ireland’s hardball negotiating style deserves the real credit, and with the press release announcing the deal only coming out last Friday, talks clearly went right to the wire.

But victories in any kind of GP contract talks are increasingly rare these days, and no doubt will be in years to come as well. This feels like a goal which should be celebrated by the entire profession – and Pulse is very happy to claim the assist.  

Steve Nowottny is the editor of Pulse. You can follow him on Twitter @stevenowottny.