Exclusive: Health minister urges GPC to 'think of patients' in GMS contract dispute

Health minister Lord Howe urged GPC members contemplating calling for an industrial action ballot at a meeting today over the breakdown of GMS contract negotiations to 'think about the patients'.

Lord Howe: 'The process of discussion and negotiation has not reached the end of the road.’

Speaking exclusively to GP magazine from the DH's Richmond House base in Whitehall, Lord Howe rejected claims by BMA chairman Dr Mark Porter that the DH had been ‘cavalier’ in threatening to impose changes to the GP contract.

Lord Howe told GP: ‘This is too important to have a cavalier attitude. I think he’s entirely misread the department’s approach on this. The intent of the department is extremely serious-minded. We are keen to engage with the BMA on both the principle and detail of changes, many of which have been very thoroughly evaluated by NICE and recommended by that body as having the potential to make a real difference to patients. This isn’t in any sense a flippant or cursory approach. There’s a lot of work that’s gone into it.’

Asked what his message to GPC members meeting at BMA House in central London today who may be contemplating calling for an industrial action ballot, he said: ‘Firstly, think about the patients. Secondly, recognise that the process of discussion and negotiation has not reached the end of the road.’

He confirmed that the DH would be prepared to negotiate if the BMA came back to the table.

The government is offering a 1.5% uplift in exchange for the biggest overhaul of QOF since its inception, which GP leaders fear could slash £15,000 on average from practices. The DH is also threatening to scrap MPIG over a seven-year period starting in 2014.

* Read the full interview with Lord Howe in the 5 December edition of GP.

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