Editorial: GPs must know DDRB report outcome now

It is the start of April and a new financial year and there is no sign of the Doctors' and Dentists' Review Body (DDRB) report on pay for practices for the coming year.

The report has gone to the DoH, but the department seems in no hurry to release it, much less give any indication about whether it will approve its recommendations. The delay means that GPs have no idea what funds they have to work with this year. This causes numerous problems around planning for the future, not least what practices should tell staff wanting to know what their annual pay increase will be. GP employers have been placed in an impossible position on this.

Towards the end of last year it seemed that the profession was set to receive a pay increase in 2009/10 that would start to bring a number of practices off MPIG.

Since then the economic climate has shifted. Inflation, according to the retail price index, fell to zero last week and there has been talk in the national media of the government wanting to keep a tight rein on public sector pay. It seems likely that this may have an impact on this year's deal - could this be the reason for the delay?

In the longer term, if inflation stays low, or falls further, it makes the case for a significant pay rise in future much harder, if not impossible. And, with public sector funding set to be squeezed after 2011, pay deals will likely remain small. Coming off the back of three years of pay freezes for general practice, this is potentially very bad news.

Aside from the impact on individual practices, the wider implication is that the profession could be saddled with MPIG for many years to come - and for a lot longer than if the government had stuck to the original intention of the GMS contract and increased pay year on year to gradually phase out MPIG.

The future of funding for general practice in the coming years, therefore, is highly uncertain. At the very least, practices need to know their finances for this year as soon as possible - the DoH should publish the DDRB report immediately.

More opinion online

Read more opinion from the GP editorial team in the editor's blog at www.healthcarerepublic.com/blogs. This is what the team had to say this week

  • PBC is working ... or is it? Whether it is problems getting hold of indicative budgets, IT issues or a lack of support from PCT managers, it seems the problems surrounding PBC are still legion.
  • Prince Charles deserves a second chance on health I'm not looking for a knighthood, and I'm no fan of the Poundbury experiment, but Prince Charles is demonstrating an open mindedness not normally associated with the monarchy, and at times seems to be severely lacking in the NHS.

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