Lord Howe, the minister responsible for primary care, set out his views on the year ahead and on proposed changes to the GP contract in an exclusive article for GPonline.com.
His comments, days before the DH consultation on changes to the GP contract closes on 26 February, suggest the government is determined to press ahead with sweeping reforms to the GMS deal.
Lord Howe again rejected the charge that the DH walked out on talks on the GP contract.
Higher QOF thresholds are a bid to 'identify where best practice exists and spread it across the board', and axing MPIG is vital because 'it is essential we move towards a fairer allocation of resources', he wrote.
Lord Howe backed GP commissioners to succeed, 'leading the design of health services for local communities'.
He added: 'Many argue this will be the most challenging year the NHS has ever faced. But with GPs at the heart of shaping local health services, I believe it will end up being one of its best.'
GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said: 'I'm sure he would like to think so, in the financial year before an election. But the reality is, every GP working on the ground knows this year is going to be very difficult. It will be difficult to balance the books in practices, maintain levels of service and achieve aims the NHS has been set.'
The last BMA contract roadshow takes place this week. Dr Vautrey said workload remained the primary concern expressed by GPs attending these events.
'GPs are overwhelmed with current levels of workload and they are angry the government doesn't appear to be actively listening to that,' he said.
The GPC published its formal consultation response to proposed changes to the QOF earlier this month (see below). It is continuing to gather views from GPs via a survey to feed into its formal response on wider changes to the contract.
Dr Vautrey said the GPC remained hopeful the DH would 'see sense' and back down over plans that will leave GPs with more work for less pay.
'We'll see what the response is at the end of the consultation. If it was genuine, the government has to show it was listening and make amendments.'