Editorial: Now is time for DH contract concessions

More than 7,700 GPs in England took part in the recent BMA poll that forms part of its response to government plans to reform the GMS contract.

Perhaps the poll's most startling finding was that one in eight GPs would quit the NHS if the DH goes ahead with plans to overhaul the GMS contract and thousands would cut back on their involvement with CCGs because of rising workload.

Some GPs have been critical about the GPC's negotiating stance but this criticism seems to have been predominantly based on the difference in results achieved in the four UK countries and given that each has a different government, this is perhaps inevitable.

Last November we reflected that it was difficult to remember a more dramatic fortnight in general practice as 2013/14 GMS contract talks broke down so acrimoniously.

What the BMA has succeeded in doing in the intervening four months is to build a clearly compelling case on the basis of its large survey of a profession anticipating buckling under the sheer weight of what it is now being asked to do.

Negotiators have been clever in using the Francis report as leverage and drawing parallels with the quality premium and the target-driven, bullying culture behind failings in Mid Staffordshire.

The DH's response, including the line: 'Our proposals are not about imposing new targets', illustrates perfectly why talks broke down.

The BMA's survey and evidence are so comprehensive and well-argued, the DH would be extremely foolish not to offer some concessions.

The Doctors' and Dentists' Review Body has already submitted its report to health secretary Jeremy Hunt's in-tray. This may have been published by the time this issue of GP is with you and may offer an obvious compromise.

Otherwise GP would suggest the Family Doctor Association's response, proposing a freeze on changes to QOF achievement thresholds for a year, as a starting point for renewed discussions.

At least this stance would offer some recognition that the DH has been pushing too hard and too fast for change.

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