Contract row unites PMS GPs

Suffolk LMC has praised local practices for working together to delay changes to their PMS contracts.

Practices in Suffolk now have over six months to negotiate with their PCT over the introduction of performance-related pay for practice-based commissioning (PBC). The revised contracts would have been in place by March 2007 if the plans had not been contested.

Later dates in July and October have also been pushed back, and Suffolk LMC now wants to make the contract changes by 31 March 2008.

Dr Simon Rudland, a GP at StowHealth in Suffolk, said: ‘We have spoken together as a united voice against the new PMS con-tracts, allowing individuals to preserve their relationships with the PCT.’ Dr Rudland added that he was ‘delighted’ that the PCT had listened to negotiators and concerns nationally.

Dr Richard Vautrey, a GPC negotiator, warned that PMS contracts across England could be re-worked in the same way.

‘We know that a lot of PCTs are being strongly encouraged to change PMS contracts.’

Dr Vautrey advised PMS GPs to use Suffolk LMC as a good example. ‘As a principle, practices sticking together is an excellent idea.

‘The key thing is to be aware that they are unlikely to be alone. Other local practices will be tar-geted in the same way. They should develop networks to ensure discussion with their PCT is available and constructive.’

Suffolk PCT most recently told GPs that their current PMS contracts would be renewed at the end of August. GPs rejected changes that would have linked 4 per cent of practice funding to PBC targets.

GPs were advised not to sign and now have until 31 March to decide whether they accept the changes to their contracts. LMC chairman Dr Bill Robinson described the meetings as ‘a bit like poker’ and said that the PCT had listened to GPs’ concerns.

Dr Robinson said: ‘Our main concern is the 4 per cent target. PBC budgets are often out of our control. We will also continue to negotiate over a package to return to GMS — the local offer is not acceptable.’

Dr Julian Herbert, Suffolk PCT’s director of finance, said: ‘We had a constructive meeting last week with the LMC, where we listened very carefully again to GPs’ concerns. We agreed in response to a request from the LMC to give them more time to consider and discuss the proposals with the PCT. We are anxious to reach an agreed contract that is reasonable for GPs, provides better services for patients across Suffolk and is value for money for the PCT. We will be meeting with the LMC again in September, when we hope to agree a final position.’

The DoH had advised PCTs to consider axing PMS contracts if they were not comparable in cost to GMS (GP, 17 March 2006).

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