Negotiations resume in GP contracts row

HEALTH chiefs were today due to go back to the negotiating table as a row over GP's contracts intensified.The Suffolk Primary Care Trust (PCT) is in talks with the 46 practices in Suffolk which have contracts with them, called Personal Medical Contracts (PMS).

HEALTH chiefs were today due to go back to the negotiating table as a row over GP's contracts intensified.

The Suffolk Primary Care Trust (PCT) is in talks with the 46 practices in Suffolk which have contracts with them, called Personal Medical Contracts (PMS).

Practices are refusing to sign new contracts asking them to carry out medical procedures not all GPs are trained for, and making procedures which are currently voluntary, such as minor surgery, compulsory.

In March, the PCT wrote to GPs with PMS contracts and offered them the option of signing new contracts or “withdrawing from NHS primary care”.

It was feared a new contract would see a substantial drop in money given to them to provide care for patients, and could see doctors tempted to go private.

The current contracts will be terminated at the end of September, but doctors have so far been unable to agree new terms for contracts to start on October 1.

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Bill Robinson, from the Suffolk Local Medical Council (LMC), which represents GPs, said: “Because the PCT want the new contracts to start in October, they gave notice in March.

“We have been negotiating since then.

“I'm confident we will reach an agreement, with a bit of give and take, but as time goes on people get more anxious. The clock is ticking.”

The LMC said is does not agree with the PCT asking for all practices to do clinical procedures, like contraceptive implant removals, because not all GPs are trained.

There are also disagreements about procedures including phlebotomy (the practice of collecting blood samples) which GPs are currently paid for separately, being made part of the core contract.

The LMC also wants items which GPs can currently say “yes” or “no” to, like providing minor surgery and minor injury services, to stay voluntary, and not be made compulsory by the PCT.

Figures released in February revealed the average GP is earning £102,000 a year.

Melanie Craig, head of performance at the PCT, said: “We are mindful of GP concerns and there is still some work to do to reach a successful outcome for both patients and professionals.

“The new contract will bring significant benefits to patients, such as longer opening hours and extra services available at the practice instead of attending the hospital.

“The amounts we currently pay to practices in Suffolk show vast variation per patient, which is not necessarily reflected by the needs of the practice populations. It is important to make sure we will have consistency and value for money with more services to deliver better outcomes for the people of Suffolk”.

Are you a GP caught up in the contracts row? Call health reporter Hazel Byford on 01473 324836. What do you think of the situation? E-mail starnews@eveningstar.co.uk.

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