Dr Richard Vautrey: The GP contract deal is a positive step

Since the government imposed changes to the GP contract earlier this year, we have been hearing clear messages from GPs.

Our survey showed that workload pressures were undermining the quality of care GPs could deliver to patients and leading to increased levels of burnout and low morale.

The key aims for GPC negotiators this year were to take steps to address the unsustainable levels of workload, reduce micromanagement, and sweep away unnecessary bureaucracy and box-ticking. GPs want to spend less time feeding the computer and more time treating patients.

Thankfully, this year ministers and NHS England have seen sense and agreed a deal with us that is a step in the right direction.

QOF shrinks by more than a third, with most of the funding attached to these points moving into core funding, allowing GPs and their staff more flexibility to treat patients according to need.

Another 100 QOF points will be diverted into funding a new enhanced service to help practices prevent patients being inappropriately admitted to hospital, using a range of measures including focused and supported care for vulnerable patients.

The BMA remains concerned at the proposed changes to seniority payments. The government is committed to phasing out all increments across the public sector within two years; we have negotiated for seniority increments to remain for the next six years for those currently receiving them, and all savings will be reinvested in the global sum.

We are also concerned about the consequences of the government's intent to roll out the choice of practice scheme, currently being piloted. We have repeatedly pointed out the risks of this and we know our concerns are shared by many CCGs. The pilots have had very poor uptake. All we can do is try to make the system as safe for patients and as reasonable for practices as possible.

There are still many challenges ahead for GPs, not least to secure real investment in general practice and reverse the years of decline. However, this deal represents a positive step forward that can go some way to help improve patient care and relieve the intolerable pressure that many GP practices have been experiencing.

  • Dr Richard Vautrey is deputy chairman of the GPC

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