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GP contract bad deal for NHS

28th February 2008

A powerful financial watchdog has said the new GP contract in England cost the government £1.76bn more than predicted in its first three years.

GP contract1

The National Audit Office also found that productivity and the number of consultations carried out by family doctors had fallen but GP practice partners now worked seven fewer hours a week but earned 58% more. However, people who are employed by GP practices had seen their pay increase by only about 3%.

The NAO report said: “GPs are working, on average, almost seven hours less per week, and their pay has significantly increased, suggesting that individual GP productivity has reduced.?

The document said it was still too early to tell if the incentives offered to GPs under the contract - introduced in 2004 - were actually improving care, although there were moderate improvements in areas such as asthma and diabetes.

The contract offered incentives for GP practices to improve quality of care and opt out of delivering out-of-hours care. It was also aimed at encouraging more trainee doctors to opt for a career in general practice.

NAO director of health Karen Taylor said the contract was a “bad deal? for patients and taxpayers.

But Dr Laurence Buckman, from the BMA said the way GPs work had changed and it was meaningless to talk about productivity in the way the NAO has done.

“GP productivity should be measured in improvements in health, not the frequency of consultations,? he said.

NHS Employers, which manages the contract, said the figures used by the NAO were misleading.

 

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