Credit crunch could hit pay awards

GPs are told pay awards will be 'a challenge' until the financial markets stabilise.

The credit crunch means pay awards will be 'a challenge for the next few years', workload will increase and partnership opportunities will be scarce, GP leaders have warned.

But the financial crisis has also undermined private firms' bids to take over practices, the RCGP annual conference in Bournemouth heard last week.

Asked by a GP what the effects of the credit crunch would be for general practice, GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said: 'Public sector pay awards will be a challenge for the next few years until we get stability in the markets.

'But it will also affect the government's plans for widespread privatisation.'

Dr Vautrey added, to a round of applause, that the DoH needed to give GPs confidence to plan ahead.

'One of the greatest problems is the complete uncertainty over whether next year they will get their expenses covered,' he added.

News of GPs' actual 2009/10 pay award is unlikely before Christmas. GP reported last week that the GPC and NHS Employers were to submit joint evidence to the Doctors' and Dentists' Review Body, but this is yet to be published.

No joint evidence was submitted last year after negotiations collapsed. The likelihood of supplementary evidence means practices may have to wait beyond April 2009 to receive any pay award.

Sir Ian Carruthers, chief executive of NHS South West, told the conference that pay would be affected: 'I can see things in general practice being a bit more cautious.'

Dr Sandar Cho, a GP in West London, said that she wanted the government to guarantee that practice expenses would be met.

'If it freezes pay, we'll find it difficult to bring GP principals in,' said Dr Cho. 'We'll have to think twice before appointing anyone in the practice.'

Dr Tony Jewell, CMO for Wales, told the conference that workload would likely increase with rising stress levels as the credit crunch saw people look to primary care for greater support.

Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, England's NHS medical director, forecast increased mental health problems and chronic obstructive airways diseases.

GPs said they were encountering credit crunch victims. Dr Kavita Gaur from Middlesex said: 'I saw someone who had attempted suicide because of his debts.'

Neil Durham and Julie Griffiths

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