Doctors will vote on shake up

SUFFOLK'S doctors are today preparing to vote on a contract, which could lead to the biggest shake up of the medical service since the 1960's.Part of the radical reforms is a 33 per cent boost in funding which could see doctors incomes rise substantially.

SUFFOLK'S doctors are today preparing to vote on a contract, which could lead to the biggest shake up of the medical service since the 1960's.

Part of the radical reforms is a 33 per cent boost in funding which could see doctors incomes rise substantially.

Every family doctor in the country will be given the opportunity to vote on the new contract next month, which could overhaul their working lives.

Ministers hope that the new deal will stop GP's leaving the profession after a survey showed vacancy rates had worsened and that a meltdown was predicted.

Although Suffolk tends to attract more doctors from other areas at the moment, the county would eventually be affected by the recruitment crisis, which is happening nationwide.

Suffolk's Primary Care Trusts introduced another kind of contract last year called Personal Medical Services which sees doctors in a more flexible role – they do not have to become partners in the practice and work less hours in a bid to attract more people into the industry.

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Doctors' leaders and the NHS confederation have spent the last 18 months negotiating the new deal, but there are no guarantees that doctors will accept it.

Suffolk doctor Mike Debenham left the NHS after 25 years to set up his own private practice in Hintlesham and was sceptical of the new contracts.

He said: "Talk of a 30 per cent pay rise is really nothing more than hot air at the moment.

"The GPs themselves do not yet have any details of the proposed changes in their contracts, and it seems highly unlikely that more than a very few will actually receive anything like the 30% supposedly on offer.

"The NHS is only offering this rise to deter GPs from taking early retirement or moving into private practice. But most GPs feel that pay is not the only issue involved - they are desperately frustrated that the NHS as a whole doesn't enable them to offer the quality of care they believe their patients deserve."

But Health Minister Lord Hunt today said: "This needs to be judged in terms of 'will it bring better services for patients?'

"I believe it will. At the end of the day it will provide a more accessible and more flexible health service."

Dr Michael Dixon, chairman of the NHS Alliance said the contract was a turning point for primary care.

He said: "It is not just about GP's and income, it is about shifting investment to the front line – where it should have been all along.

"At last we are seeing more than lip service to the principle of primary care led NHS."

N What do you think of the proposed shake up? Write in to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or email eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk or visit the forum at www.eveningstar.co.uk

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