Asked about the possibility of more resources for primary care at the Best Practice show in Birmingham today, Lord Howe said: ‘I recognise that if we are to achieve what we want to, we need to strengthen primary care. There are a number of ways of doing that and the GP contract is currently under negotiation.
‘If we are to lever in more resources across the totality of primary care, then we should look for opportunities.
‘I don’t want to go into detail about the negotiations of the GP contract but I think they are however moving to a very constructive stage. I’d like to think that both sides are aiming for the same endpoint. Jeremy Hunt has already described the current contract as burdensome and said he wants to free up GPs’ time to look after patients.’
A poll of delegates at the conference found that 77% of GPs believe the government will enforce contract changes rather than reach a negotiated settlement with the GPC.
Speaking at a Westminster Health Forum event on Tuesday, Lord Howe accused GPs of blocking patient choice but hinted that the government may adopt a flexible approach to plans for GPs to take 24-hour responsibility for the care of frail elderly patients.