GPC ready to challenge Brown out-of-hours

The GPC has demanded a meeting with Labour leadership front runner Gordon Brown over fears he will divert cash away from GPs who have opted out of 24-hour responsibility if he becomes prime minister.

The chancellor is reported to be considering using pay stripped from opted-out GPs to offer incentives to other providers to deliver improved out-of-hours services and fund longer practice opening hours.

GPC negotiator Dr Richard Vautrey told GP that comments attributed to the chancellor gave the impression that he ‘wants to tear up the new contract’.

‘We will be keen to meet him,’ Dr Vautrey said. ‘If he wants to address out-of-hours access sensibly we would be happy to look at options, such as creating an enhanced service and funding it through additional money.’

GPC chairman Dr Hamish Meldrum has pledged to write to the chancellor to demand talks that could also involve primary care organisation managers.

He said it was important that Mr Brown recognised that considerable funding would be needed to boost out-of-hours access.

‘There would have to be a sig-nificant increase in the number of GPs, practice nurses, and all the other practice staff, to cover longer opening times, along with all the back-up diagnostic services needed to make general practice work efficiently,’ said Dr Meldrum.

Dr Vautrey is keen to address out-of-hours as part of a wider discussion about NHS resources.

‘Gordon Brown needs to ask whether further investment in access to out-of-hours is the best use of limited resources,’ he said.

Dr Vautrey added that the re-ported comments coming from Mr Brown’s camp showed the chancellor ‘in his true colours’.

‘Contrary to some people’s view, Gordon Brown is not the saviour of the NHS. These comments show that policies surrounding privatisation and freezing GP pay have come from the Treasury all along,’ he added.

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