Special conference to vote on 2020 GP contract next month

GP leaders will meet on 11 March at a special conference of LMCs that will spell out the profession's view on changes to the GMS contract agreed for 2020, the BMA has confirmed.

The BMA's GP committee (GPC) voted in January to hold the special conference - only the third event of its kind since the millennium - once negotiations on the contract deal for 2020 were complete.

Following major concessions from the government over controversial draft network DES specifications, the GPC backed a package of changes - with 71% of committee members voting in favour - but the special conference will offer LMCs a chance to have a final say.

Under the terms of a motion agreed last month by the GPC, the special conference will ‘consider the outcome of the 2020/21 GP contract negotiations and what action the profession should take’.

The BMA has said the contract deal is agreed and no longer up for renegotiation - and LMCs cannot overturn the GPC vote to back it. However, the special conference will be able to make its views known on the deal as a whole and could, for example, recommend that GPs reject optional elements of the deal - such as the network DES.

Primary care networks

The contract package unveiled on 6 February pared back service specifications for primary care networks (PCNs) compared with the draft proposals and offers new funding for staff, and to underpin work practices must carry out in care homes.

The deal also offers incentive payments for new partners and more trainees, further measures to support the workforce, changes to QOF and more.

Despite a largely favourable response, PCN clinical directors have warned that workload required from networks could still be 'too much too soon' - suggesting that LMCs could offer a significant challenge to the contract proposals next month.

Accountants, meanwhile, have warned that many practices could face a year-on-year reduction in profits despite an increase in funding promised through the 2020 contract deal as minimum wage increases, other staff pay rises, the removal of the minimum practice income guarantee (MPIG) and the ending of seniority pay from April take effect.

GP funding

GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: 'In line with the motion passed at GPC England in January, the purpose of the special LMC conference is to consider the outcome of negotiations. Following major improvements secured through tough negotiations on the contract package, the outcome of negotiations is now an agreed contract deal between the BMA and NHS England and NHS Improvement, with changes coming in this April.

'The conference will therefore now discuss the profession’s response to this and help set GPC England’s work plan for the coming years.

'Reaction to the deal from GPs has been very positive, but there is still a lot to do, not least in tackling crucial premises and pensions issues. We will now also be embarking on a series of roadshows around the country so that GPs, PCNs and LMCs are best informed and can make the most of these new the changes.'

In a blog posted on the BMA website on Wednesday, Dr Vautrey said that after significant pushback from the BMA and the wider profession on the initial contract proposals for 2020, 'we can look forward to a brighter future for our profession'.

He said that after 'so many years of underfunding and increased demand', the contract negotiated for 2020 was 'a GP contract which will provide more funding and support an increased workforce, not only for the next four years but with an explicit commitment to long-term investment'.

The special LMCs conference will come on the same day as the government delivers its budget - expected to spell out changes to address the pension tax crisis that has forced thousands of GPs to reduce their working hours.

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