Headlines: June 2nd, 2003

Ballot papers go out today to family doctors across the country who will be voting on whether a proposed new contract is acceptable. The British Medical Association’s General Practitioners Committee has set 10am on Friday June 20th as the deadline for the return of votes.The decision not to delay the vote any further was taken by the Practitioner Committee in the light of improvements it believes have been secured in the last couple of weeks. The move was immediately welcomed by the NHS Confederation who said it offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to develop the GP system into one which would be the envy of health professionals around the world.

The ballot will be run by Electoral Reform Ballot Services which is sending forms to the 43,000 GPs and GP Registrars. They will be asked to vote yes or no to the question “Do you wish to see the proposed new GMS contract implemented?” Internet and telephone voting will also be available.

The GPC says recent concessions include, a move to using registered lists of patients for resource calculations rather than ONS census based data, the removal of a financial penalty for practices using the Minimum Practice Income Guarantee and agreement on the use of disease prevalence data at practice level when calculating payments in the Quality and Outcomes Framework.

The decision to hold the ballot now means that if family doctors agree to the contract, parliamentary deadlines can be met to enable primary legislation to be passed which would mean full implementation of the deal in April next year with doctors being automatically transferred to it. Some elements of the new contract will be introduced immediately if GPs vote in favour. These would include a pay uplift in the current financial year of 11% including money to allow practices to prepare for the introduction of the new Quality and Outcomes Framework next year.