But all was not as it seemed. Just four months later, a month and a half before the deal is even introduced, the GPC is already attempting to renegotiate the arrangements.
In October, sources warned that the deal was for one year only. However, it is odd that the GPC would agree to introduce a system it now acknowledges is not up to the job.
If the new arrangements continued after 2009/10 they could redistribute funds even more unfairly than current budgets, the GPC said last week. While it is good that the committee has identified early the problems inherent in this new model, it does beg the question: why is it being introduced at all?
How the change will actually impact on funding for practices will only be seen when the Doctors' and Dentists' Review Body makes its recommendation on pay in the coming weeks. But, what is becoming clear is that the deal the GPC struck to overhaul prevalence as part of the negotiations could be catastrophic for some practices.
As GP reported last month, practices face a prevalence lottery (GP, 23 January), with some standing to lose six-figure sums. The GPC has said 'losing' practices should negotiate with their primary care organisation (PCO) for extra funds, effectively leaving them reliant on PCOs' 'goodwill'. Last week, the GPC admitted that some PCOs have been unwilling to provide extra financial support and 'possibly hundreds of practices' may have to fold.
This is an astonishing state of affairs. It is a remarkable oversight on the part of the GPC to agree a deal that strips some practices of hundreds of thousands of pounds with no guarantee of compensation.
There are clearly many problems inherent in the current contract and the GPC and NHS Employers have much to discuss. But one has to wonder whether the profession can continue to have faith in representatives who negotiated a deal that could allow so many practices to fail.
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:
- "The UK's most fanciable MP There's no place for the 'Mr Darcy of Richmond House' (as former health secretary Alan Milburn was known) but two former health ministers made it to the list: Caroline Flint at 7 and Andy Burnham at number 1."
- "Fast food sales are up The recession is bad for our health. Not only are GPs probably seeing increasing numbers of patients attending the surgery with stress-related complaints, patients are also likely to be getting fatter as well."