GP contract changes are 'not set in stone', minister says

Government plans to overhaul the GP contract are 'not set in stone' and the BMA should return to negotiations, health minister Lord Howe has said.

At the National Association of Primary Care conference in Birmingham this week, Lord Howe called on the GPC to continue discussing changes to the GP contract with the government.

‘We are very keen that negotiations should continue and we still want to find mutually acceptable solutions,’ he said.

‘We very much would like to continue discussing with the BMA a range of proposals set out in our letter,’ he added. ‘I would like to suggest that none of those are set out in stone, however if negotiations aren’t possible we really don’t want to lose the opportunity to make these improvements for your patients.

Five months of negotiations over the 2012/13 contract came to an end last week and the DH published its list of proposed changes, including an overhaul of QOF and a plan to axe MPIG.

Lord Howe said he believed the government had ‘put a fair deal on the table’. He said the changes were about improving patient care and admitted that the pay increase was ‘modest’.

‘They are not about efficiency or reducing investment in general practice - as the BMA I think has suggested – they are about improving patient care, saving more lives and improving services,’ he said. ‘Yes, additional investment is modest and we are looking for improvement for patients, but that is no different from what we expect the rest of the NHS as well.’

Lord Howe said the government wanted to see, in return for its additional investment, better care for patients. ‘This is about driving up standards for all and we want the contract to reflect the most up-to-date expert guidance and excellent standards of care,’ he said.

He also denied that the changes would undermine the future of PMS contacts. ‘There is nothing in our proposals that will mean the end of the PMS contract,’ he said.

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