Further GMS pay freeze will damage practices, warn GPs

GP leaders fear practices will struggle to cope if the DH applies a 1% cap on public sector pay to the GMS contract for 2013/14.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul: GPs want to be treated fairly
Dr Chaand Nagpaul: GPs want to be treated fairly

Some doctors could also face regional pay variation from next year after NHS Employers launched a poll asking NHS organisations whether variation was justified.

The poll has been set up as organisations begin preparing evidence for the Doctors and Dentists Review Body (DDRB), which recommends annual pay uplifts.

It remains unclear whether the DDRB will be asked to give a recommendation on GMS funding for 2013/14. NHS Employers and the GPC negotiated a deal without consulting the DDRB for 2012/13, which delivered a 0.5% rise through a hike in the value of QOF points.

Accountants said the deal meant that practices offering staff a 1% pay rise faced a drop of more than 3% in profits.

The BMA said GMS negotiations were ongoing and that it could not comment on whether there were plans to involve the DDRB.

The government announced last year that public sector pay rises in 2014 and 2015 would be no more than 1%.

This was confirmed last month in a letter to the DDRB from chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander.

The letter said that because ‘the government will limit uplifts to an average of 1% in each workforce’, the DDRB should ‘focus on considering how the 1% will be divided within their remit group’.

GPC negotiator Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘The issue for GPs is not quite the same as for other employed staff. If the government decides to put a cap on all doctors there is still an issue about assessing fairly the expenses element of GP contractors.

‘We have always said GPs want to be treated fairly, like all other doctors in the NHS. What is not fair is GPs' expenses not being met, in which case any uplift is undermined.’

Wessex LMCs chief executive Dr Nigel Watson added: ‘I understand the financial crisis we are in, but practice profits are falling year on year.’ He said his own take home pay fell 6% last year.

‘My area is a nice place to live and work, but practices are struggling to recruit partners and can’t afford salaried GPs either,’ he said. ‘The whole debate is not about GP income, but about resources available to practices to deliver services.’

NHS Employers has put out a survey as part of its efforts to gather evidence to give to the DDRB.

It asks trusts whether they are experiencing recruitment and retention problems, whether a pay rise for doctors would be affordable, how any rise should be split between different groups of doctors and whether regional variation would be a good idea.

A spokeswoman for NHS Employers said the poll related only to pay for salaried doctors directly employed by the NHS.

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