Press release

GP contract agreement allows patients more choice

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley today welcomed the agreement over changes to the GP contract for next year

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley today welcomed the agreement between the government and British Medical Association (BMA) over changes to the GP contract for next year. The deal will mean that patients will get more choice over which GP treats their family and will improve the quality of care of patients.

Andrew Lansley said:

“This is a good deal for GPs, a good deal for patients and a good deal for the NHS. These are difficult economic times and there are many financial challenges facing the NHS so I welcome the BMA’s commitment to delivering more and better care for patients whilst there is a continuing freeze in GP pay.

“Patients often tell me that they want more choice over which practice they can register with, so I am pleased that this deal allows three major pilots to be launched across England that will allow patients to register at practices away from where they live, such as near to where they work.

“This will allow us to test and evaluate the issues that the profession has expressed concerns about.

“The deal will also mean that patients may not be forced to change GP surgery if they move locally. This will save up to three million people who move locally every year the hassle of re-registering as they can remain with the practice of their choice.”

The key points in the financial agreement are:

Financial settlement

This settlement involves a pay freeze for GPs.

As last year, the government will apply a small (0.5%) uplift to contract payments to contribute to the general increase in practice expenses and to provide for practice staff earning less than £21,000 to receive a pay rise of at least £250. The combination of a below-inflation uplift and new quality requirements for GP practices will deliver an estimated efficiency improvement of around 3.5 per cent.

Quality improvements

The agreement includes a number of improvements to the Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF), including new measures to improve care for asthma patients, patients with peripheral arterial disease at risk of heart attacks, together with additional support and treatment to help smokers to quit.

Greater patient choice

Three areas will run the pilot from April 2012, which will see people having greater choice and flexibility about the GP practice that provides their personal care. It will mean patients are able to register close to work, close to a relative they care for or even close to a child’s school.  The pilots will also test new arrangements to enable patients who are away from home to use a GP surgery as a non-registered patient.  

Seventy-five per cent of patients who responded to a recent consultation on GP choice made it clear that they wanted greater ability to register with a practice of their choice.

The settlement provides the opportunity to fully test and evaluate the impact of increasing choice in pilot areas and will inform and strengthen proposals before wider implementation is considered. 

End to patients being forced to de-register from their practice

The agreement today will also mean that people who move house just a few miles down the road will not be forced to move practice, which they would have had to do in the past. This will benefit up to three million or so people who move house each year within a short distance.

Better working between GPs and A&E departments

GP practices will work in groups to review the patterns of A&E attendances and find ways of improving the quality and accessibility of the care they provide so that patients avoid unnecessary A&E attendances.

The scheme focus in particular on quality of care for older patients with complex health needs at high risk of admission, children with minor illness or injury and patients who frequently re-attend A&E.

Membership of Clinical Commissioning Groups

The Department also welcomes that the BMA has agreed that, subject to the Health and Social Care Bill, it will be a contractual duty for GP practices to be members of a clinical commissioning group (CCG).  This provides clarity to GP practices over their contractual responsibilities and is an important step forward in the process of NHS modernisation.