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Tuesday, 20 February, 2001, 01:04 GMT
Doctors clash with government
GP consultation
GPs angry at their below inflation pay offer
Doctors are building up for a big fight with the government over pay and conditions.

Hospital consultants are at loggerheads with the government over what they see as a reluctance by Whitehall to sit down and negotiate their new contract.

GP leaders are so furious about their recent pay award, which they claim is below the rate of inflation, that they have brought in a vote of no confidence in the government and are considering sanctions.

Doctors say fewer people are wanting to join the medical profession and that morale has reached an all-time low.

Without new recruits doctors predict the NHS will soon reach crisis point and accuse the government of apathy.

He should not assume that consultants will be endlessly co-operative when the call on their good will is entirely one-sided

Dr Peter Hawker, chair of the BMA's consultative committee

Consultant contract

Health Secretary Alan Milburn is expected to publish the government plans for the new consultant contract later this week, but the British Medical Association (BMA) say they have not been adequately consulted on plans.

The BMA warns that without the co-operation of the doctors, the "ambitious plans" by Mr Milburn will come to nothing.

Dr Peter Hawker, chair of the BMA's consultative committee said: "He cannot deliver his ambitious plans for faster treatment and extended access for patients without a modern contract for consultants.

"He should not assume that consultants will be endlessly co-operative when the call on their good will is entirely one-sided," he said.

Underestimating anger

It was announced by the Department of Health in December that GPs would receive an average pay rise of 4.2% from April.

This figure was higher than that announced for doctors in general (3.9%), because some GPs were given special seniority payments.

But the GP pay system is very complicated, and the BMA says it has now transpired the real increase will be just 2.33% after expenses are taken into consideration.

Dr Hamish Meldrum, GPC
Dr Hamish Meldrum: "The pay issue was almost the last straw"

Dr Hamish Meldrum, of the BMA's GP committee, said although the current government is making all the right noises to the medical profession it is reluctant to take any action and they have lost all confidence in the government's ability for fair negotiation.

He said: "GPs are being asked to do more and more. They feel under more pressure and the government are doing nothing to help them.

"The workforce is at best static and may even be falling and yet we see nothing tangible being done to address this. This pay issue was almost the last straw."

Dr Meldrum confirmed the GPs' committee is considering taking sanctions against the government, but would not give further details.

A spokesman for the Department of Health criticised the consultants for what he called their "rather intemperate out burst".

"We had a very cordial meeting with the BMA last week and we look forward to negotiating a contract which will reward consultants on the basis of their contribution to the NHS," he said.

He said the GP pay award had been based on factual information provided by GPs to the Inland Revenue.

The NHS confederation, which is the voice of NHS management, has criticised the BMA for its stance calling the attack on the government over the consultants contract "ill-timed and intemperate".

But they did acknowledge there needed to be a speedy conclusion to the negotiations.

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See also:

09 Feb 01 | Health
GP fury over pay award
18 Dec 00 | Health
How GPs are paid
17 Feb 01 | Scotland
GPs attack Labour's health record
16 Feb 01 | Scotland
Deacon's jab at doctors
18 Dec 00 | Health
Pay boost for NHS staff
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