The British Medical Association (BMA) has claimed the government isthreatening to impose a "draconian contract" on GP surgeries, after itrejected a package of proposals over extended hours put forward by theGeneral Practitioners' Committee (GPC).
Since October, the GPCand NHS Employers have been involved in negotiations aimed at coming toa UK-wide agreement on extending opening hours in the evenings and atweekends.
These proposals did not involve additional funding,but practice nurses and staff would have been paid for their longer servicethrough a relocating of existing financial resources already allocatedto access and Choose and Book.
Dr Laurence Buckman, GPCChairman, said GPC negotiators "have been intent on reaching a dealwhich balances the competing demands of offering extended hours whilstpreserving a good service to the large majority of patients who want toattend during normal hours."
The GPC proposals would have led toan additional two hours of surgery time each week – equivalent to anevening surgery from 6.30–8.30pm or a Saturday morning surgery.
Practiceswould also have been encouraged to focus on improving care in severalclinical areas, including heart failure and osteoporosis, by makingalterations to the Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF).
However,Dr Buckman announced that the government has rejected these plans, andintends to impose a contract on GPs resulting in at least an additionalthree hours of surgery time each week, "whether patients want this ornot."
Dr Buckman said: "We believe the government's method ofnegotiation is nothing short of a disgrace. They have effectively put agun to our head and said if we don't accept their proposal they willimpose a more draconian contract.
"The vast majority of ourpatients, and in particular those with chronic diseases or mothers withyoung children, prefer to come to surgeries during the day. They willbe the ones who lose out if GPs are forced to work differently."
DrRichard Vautrey, GPC Deputy Chairman, said the government's demands"show no understanding of the real needs of the majority of patients weare serving."
Dr Buckman said: "We are disappointed and angrythat the government is not listening to GPs. As family doctors, weunderstand the needs of patients, which is why the government gave usthe vital role of commissioning healthcare. But on something asimportant as this they refuse to listen to us.
"We are beingbullied so that the Prime Minister can tick a box next to a politicallydriven target without regard for the damage this could do in thelong-term to patient services in primary care.
He also said: "ifthey are not prepared to listen to our proposals, one of the fewconclusions that we can reach is that the prime minister does notreally want to reach a deal with GPs. We could then assume that theissue relating to extended hours is really a smokescreen to hide thegovernment's intent to privatise general practice as quickly aspossible."
However, Dr Buckman added: "We will offer to keep onnegotiating with government while we seek the views of family doctorsthroughout the UK. We hope that the government will take up this offerand listen to us rather than force GPs to work in a way that reducescare for the majority."
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