GP contract negotiations facing delays as Brexit stalls Westminster

Negotiations over the biggest overhaul to the GP contract in more than a decade face being held up by Brexit.

GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey
GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey

The DHSC had been expected to publish details of its NHS long-term plan this week - but the government has now confirmed the document will not be unveiled until the new year.

Prime minister Theresa May revealed last month that primary and community care would receive a £3.5bn funding boost under the government's plan to increase the overall NHS budget by £20.5bn by 2023/24.

But the detail of the long-term plan - pushed back as government departments focus on preparing for a possible no-deal Brexit - is key to talks over the GP contract, because it could define exactly how much funding is available for general practice.

GP contract talks

GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey told GPonline: 'It is a serious issue that the Brexit debate in Westminster is preventing the government from focusing on the most important issue for voters - the NHS.

'Our current negotiations in England are linked to the long-term plan and it's essential that it's published as soon as possible.'

A senior NHS England official earlier this year billed this year's contract talks as the 'most substantial discussion of the GP contract since 2004'.

The much-anticipated state-backed GP indemnity scheme is expected to take effect from 2019. Talks on how the deal will be paid for are at the core of contract negotiations, after the DHSC said earlier this year that it would be paid for from existing resources allocated to general practice.

The government-commissioned GP partnership review, plans to scrap up to a quarter of QOF targets, an overhaul of the Carr-Hill formula that dictates practice funding, and a review of premises are also likely to combine to drive significant reforms.

GP funding

NHS England has also set out proposals to reform GP payment mechanisms, and health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said earlier this year that the way general practice is funded may have to change to accommodate providers such as the controversial GP at Hand.

Concern over delays to the GP contract come as the BMA warned that 'political wrangling' over Brexit was 'distracting policymakers away from the urgent issues facing the health service this winter'.

The BMA has warned that the winter ahead could be the toughest yet for the NHS, and said that no part of the NHS would be unaffected. The BMA, along with the RCGP, has backed calls for a second referendum on any Brexit deal.

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