Headlines: July 11th, 2001

Alan Milburn has demonstrated that the Government is prepared to power-share with public service delivery teams to get the key jobs done.He has asked the NHS Confederation to lead negotiations on a new contract for GPs – negotations which had gone stale sometime before the election.

The Government wants a new contract to achieve more flexibility in providing primary care services, to enable services to be more customer-facing rather than service driven, and to turn the bias on delivery of quality of service rather than quantity of patients.

The BMA, pre-election, criticised not just the proposals but the way in which the Government was conducting negotiations.

GPs currently work on old-style contracts which effectively mean their surgeries are their businesses and best practice ideas often have to demonstrate that they are good for a doctor’s business as well as for a patient.

The NHS Confederation is delighted to be at the centre of the negotiations, and says it will contribute not just the ideas of service managers but their good on-the-ground relationships with doctors.

The BMA has broadly welcomed the move, and see it as kick-starting a stalled process that will see the organisation insist on national conditions (rather than local), and on means of doctors taking control over the size of their workload. It wants the contract in place by April 2002.

The decision may offer some pointers to other areas of modernisation where tough changes are to be tackled, such as with the terms and conditions of police officers.