GPs on collision course with NHS England over multi-year contract

LMCs have rejected calls for multi-year GP contracts, just days after health secretary Matt Hancock confirmed plans to ask NHS England to take a 'multi-year approach' to contract talks.

LMC leaders voted against multi-year contracts
LMC leaders voted against multi-year contracts

In a letter setting out the remit for the Doctors and Dentists Review Body (DDRB), which provides independent advice to the government on GP pay, Mr Hancock said: 'We wish to make the review body aware that NHS England are shortly due to begin formal negotiations to reach agreement on a new primary care contract.

'As I have set out, we are aspiring to negotiate a multi-year agreement on proposed reforms in primary care which will lead to enhanced resources going into primary care.'

However, GPs at the England LMCs conference on Friday rejected calls for 'NHS England to issue multi-year contracts to general practice' - and voted against a call for the GPC to negotiate a 'wholesale new contract'.

GP contract

Despite the votes against these measures, LMC delegates backed a motion that said the current annual GMS contract negotiations were ‘failing to address the crisis in general practice’.

GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey told the conference that there were ‘benefits to negotiating annually’, but said the GPC also recognised that ‘practices want stability as well’. He said it was a ‘tricky balance’ between needing to ‘address problems on an annual basis, versus the need to have stability.’

Dr Lee Salkeld from Avon LMC said it was ‘about time we moved away from annual contract negotiations’, which left practices ‘limping from one year to the next’.

‘If we knew what our financial envelope looked like for three to five years and the expectations within the contract we could plan and invest with greater certainty,’ he said. 'If general practice is the cornerstone of the NHS then let's give it more than silt for foundations.'

NHS resources

Dr Guy Watkins from the GPC said that the current GMS contract was ‘as dead as a very unwell dodo’. He said that, despite best efforts, the resources going into the contract were going down.

‘All initiatives, all support, all plans that we’ve seen are talking about assisting practices not funding practices. The Treasury appears to believe that putting money into the GMS contract is putting money into your hands and not into patient needs. And that is a disgraceful slur on the profession. We need to negotiate [a contract] that [the Treasury] supports.’

Dr Christiane Harrris from Bedfordshire said: ‘A new GMS contract could be an opportunity to reestablish general practice on a firm footing. But we are not negotiating with a benign Father Christmas-like employer, but with representatives of a government that is dedicated to cutting services to the bone under the guise of working leaner.’

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