Headlines: September 12th, 2000

The British Medical Association wants to peel away the spin put on the launch of the core contract for GPs. Family doctors have been developing new services, auditing their practice and keeping themselves professionally up to date for many years. Commitment to quality is not a Government invention forced on unwilling GPs The new contract option is just another
mechanism for achieving high quality patient care.

Unlike the existing contracts, which concern individual GPs, the new core contract has been designed for new style Personal Medical Services (PMS) that are being piloted in a number of areas. With a PMS contract the pilot will receive a set sum of money from the local NHS based on the services it is contracted to provide. This is worked out on the basis of the health needs of local people and what the practice aims to deliver to meet those needs. The pilot itself then decides how to spend that money on staff and delivering the services. The new core contract will require GPs and their practices to deliver on a number of quality standards.

The BMA are also concerned about the standard requiring patient access to a primary care professional within 24 hours and a GP within 48 hours. They argue that patient needs vary and in some cases access is required within minutes while other patients would be better served by a longer appointment a few days ahead. They fear that the standard could result in clinical priorities in primary care being distorted in the same way they have been in the hospital sector due to the Government’s focus on waiting list numbers.