A substantial pay rise is unlikely this year, even after three years of falling profits, LMCs have warned.
Dr Charlie Daniels, chairman of Devon LMC, said the recession had wrecked the profession's case for more money. The chances of a substantial pay rise are 'zilch, I suspect', he said.
None of the LMC chairs contacted by GP newspaper said that the profession could expect any more than an inflationary funding increase this year.
But all agreed it would be the wrong time to take any formal action in protest. 'I don't think it would be politically acceptable when patients are losing jobs,' said Dr Daniels.
The BMA has demanded a funding uplift of at least 3.5 per cent. The DoH has recommended GPs receive just 1.6 per cent to cover expenses. But since these requests were submitted, both the economy and public finances have tanked.
Analysts have warned that health spending is now likely to grow by less than 1 per cent a year after current spending plans run out in 2011.
Nigel Edwards, director of policy at the NHS Confederation, told a recent event in London organised by the NHS body that as much as £2 billion of efficiency cuts were likely to fall on the health service.
But higher public expectations and Payment by Results mean 'we can no longer reduce the level of service, which was the historic way of cutting costs', he said.
Nick Timmins, public policy editor of the Financial Times, told the same meeting that the economic crisis could put pressure on the government to cut NHS staff's terms and conditions.
Dr John Grenville, secretary of Derby LMC, said that GPs were likely to be philosophical about another low pay rise. 'If it does happen, with the economic position we're in, the majority will say that relatively, we're better off than a lot of our patients at the moment. If we get any increase at all we should be grateful.'
Such sentiments mean that GP leaders seem likely to resist calls for formal protests or industrial action.
'It's got to be off the table,' said Dr Rob Barnett, secretary of Liverpool LMC. 'The reality is, when a lot of people are losing their jobs, headlines full of GPs bleating about pay will go down like a lead balloon.'
Comment below and tell us what you think