Exclusive: NHS board to step up PMS reviews

GP practices face increasing pressure on core funding for the rest of the current parliament as the NHS Commissioning Board (NCB) takes control of GP contracts, experts have warned.

Dame Barbara Hakin: the NCB had 'done a number of things' to ensure fairness for practices on GMS and PMS contracts (Photograph: P Hill)
Dame Barbara Hakin: the NCB had 'done a number of things' to ensure fairness for practices on GMS and PMS contracts (Photograph: P Hill)

Major contract reforms such as a move to a single contract are unlikely to go ahead before 2015, GPs predict. But work to draw up an alternative GP funding model, perhaps involving a shift to practice budgets based on QOF data, could accelerate following the passage of the Health Bill this week, they said.

Under reforms set out in the Health Bill, the NCB will hold all contracts with GP practices.

NHS Alliance PMS/GMS lead Dr David Jenner said an acceleration of PMS reviews seen at PCT level was 'inevitable'.

'PMS is locally negotiated. It will now be locally negotiated with regional officers of a national organisation. It is inevitable that the national organisation will be looking to rationalise those contracts and seek parity with GMS or explicit value for money if the contracted duties differ from GMS,' he warned.

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey agreed: 'Undoubtedly bringing contracts under one organisation will mean it will want to bring them closer together.'

Ensuring fairness for practices
NCB national director of commissioning development Dame Barbara Hakin said that despite plans in the White Paper Liberating the NHS to move to a single GP contract, 'in the early stages there will still be GMS and PMS contracts'.

She said the NCB had 'done a number of things' to ensure fairness for practices on GMS and PMS. 'We need to continue to do that and there is an advantage that all the contracts will be held by one organisation.'

Dr Jenner and Dr Vautrey said although moves to bring GMS and PMS closer together were likely, a more fundamental contract overhaul was not imminent. But Dr Jenner said: 'I would not be surprised if we see some movement on the funding formula.' He said it would be a natural progression to use the same 'fair share formula' based on practice data for primary care provision and commissioning.

He warned that although the government has said Budget plans for local public sector pay deals would not apply to GPs 'yet', this may not remain so.

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