Talks about next year's GP contract have broken down. The British Medical Association said on Tuesday that the offer made by NHS Employers was 'not sufficient' and called on the doctors and dentists review body to recommend an across-the-board uplift for GPs under next year's contract.
NHS Employers said its offer aimed to reflect the government's recommendation for a 1.5 per cent uplift for the rest of the health service. The DDRB has not taken evidence from the Department of Health, which considers GP pay to be part of annual contract negotiations, but the BMA's GP committee supplied evidence to the DDRB calling for a 4 per cent uplift across the contract. On Tuesday, the BMA said that the offer made by NHS Employers was not sufficient to meet GP expectations, either in terms of the earnings increase or the work GPs would be expected to do, and that it wanted the DDRB to make a ruling. If it did not do so, the GP committee would 'examine our options' a spokesperson said.
Committee chair Dr Hamish Meldrum said: 'NHS Employers feel they have made us their best offer in terms of an inflation rise and the work they would like GPs to get involved with. We have reached an impasse in terms of what we have been offered and we are waiting to see what the review body says and what the government response is.
'Dr Barbara Hakin, NHS Employers' general medical services negotiating team chair, said she was 'disappointed' by the GPC's decision.She said the organisation believed there was potential to make 'significant investment' available to general practice in return for contract efficiencies 'in line with expectations of other parts of the NHS'.She said the GP committee had now made it clear that agreement would not be negotiated in time for April implementation.
Dr Hakin told HSJ: 'We are agreeing a contract for services into which GP pay is intimately linked. We have been trying to reach agreement on a contract for services which will reflect the government pay offer but we really seem to be struggling and there is a gap between what we think is reasonable and significant investment into the GMS contract [and what the GP committee thinks]'.
She described as 'not helpful' the committee's view that the DDRB should have a role in contract negotiations, given that the its role is to agree pay, whereas discussions on GMS involve a contract for services.She said a decision was expected from the DDRB 'within the next couple of weeks'.
Dr Hakin said failure to reach a settlement for 2007-08 could mean that 'this potential investment may now be lost to general practice' - something that was 'of great concern to all parties who want to ensure the continued development of the GMS contract'.
Dr Meldrum said it would be 'very short-sighted' if the government failed to make the money available when talks resumed.Last week HSJ revealed a DoH internal memo on pay which warned of 'a real danger of industrial unrest' if next year's pay award was 2 per cent or less.Dr Meldrum said the GPC was trying to 'pursue through the courts' the government's plans to cap GP pension increases at 48 per cent on the basis it was a 'breach of agreement'. Asked about the scope for industrial action he said, to be successful, 'you need to have public support', as well as the support of those taking action. 'It will be difficult to talk about a pension increase of 48 per cent when other people's pensions are going out of business,' he said.And he said traditional industrial action did not apply to self-employed contractors, given that their contracts could be withdrawn.