Under the GP contract deal for 2018/19, the government promised an extra 1% would be added to GP funding from April 2019 if agreement on multi-year contract reform from 2019/20 could be agreed.
Triggering the uplift would add around £61.5m to global sum payments - around £8,800 per average GP practice. A BMA update published last year made clear that this funding would come 'in addition to the funding envelope for the contract negotiation for 2019/20 onwards' and would cover GP pay, practice staff expenses and minimum and maximum pay scales for salaried GPs.
Government evidence sent last week to the Doctors and Dentists Review Body (DDRB), which advises the DHSC on pay, reiterates that '1% will be available to be added to the baseline from 1 April 2019 subject to contractual reform'.
The DHSC evidence adds: 'Preliminary discussions on changes to the GP contract for 2019/20 are ongoing ahead of formal negotiations. Items for discussion include primary care networks, reform of QOF payments, indemnity and digital.'
GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey told GPonline he was hopeful that a contract deal would be reached to trigger the 1% uplift.
The Leeds GP confirmed that primary care networks were 'part of our discussions', following plans set out in the NHS long-term plan that all practices would be expected to join these groups by 2023/24.
Dr Vautrey said: 'We’ve had productive talks - I would hope and expect on conclusion of the negotiations that we will secure that 1% from last year, which was effectively an IOU, as it were.'
In evidence last week from the BMA to the DDRB, which advises the government on pay, doctors' leaders called for a 2019/20 pay rise of at least 3.2% - in line with the forecast RPI rate of inflation for 2019. BMA leaders have also demanded a mechanism to address pay erosion over the past decade that has seen real-terms GP income drop by up to 29%.
DHSC evidence to the DDRB acknowledges rising demand on the NHS as a whole and pressure on general practice.
However, the government's evidence emphasises that despite plans to increase NHS funding by £20.5bn by 2023/24 as care is shifted increasingly towards primary and community settings, there remains an ongoing 'need for fiscal discipline'. The evidence warns that 'affordable pay awards will be an essential part of keeping [government] borrowing under control'.
The BMA hit out last week at the pay review process, warning that doctors had lost confidence in the independence of the DDRB and that 'derisory' uplifts had hit morale. It condemned the Westminster government's failure to award the 4% uplift recommended by the DDRB for 2018/19 in full, after the award was 'abated' to 2%.
Despite BMA calls for a 'common recommendation for all doctors', the government has asked the DDRB to consider targeting pay awards at specific staff groups - a move that angered doctors' leaders in the last pay round.