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Last Updated:  Friday, 21 February, 2003, 16:30 GMT
Billions for GP services
The BMA unveiled the deal
Top GPs could receive pay rises of up to 50% as part of plans to radically change the way they work.

The pay offer is part of a package which will see total spending on primary care rise by 33% over the next three years - to 8bn by 2006.

The deal, if accepted by doctors, will see sweeping changes to the way GP services are provided across the UK.

Under the terms of the proposed new contract, GPs will no longer have to provide care to patients in the evenings or weekends.

Other NHS bodies, such as primary care trusts, would take over responsibility for out-of-hours care. This could see nurses and paramedics taking a greater lead in caring for patients.

Essential services

All GPs will be expected to offer essential medical services to patients as part of the new contract.

However, some will be able to opt out of providing non-essential services, such as immunisation clinics or contraceptive advice, if their practice is overstretched.

Other GPs are expected to use the extra money to offer additional services, which are generally only available in hospitals such as specialist clinics.

The new contract is a something for something deal
Health Minister John Hutton
According to the British Medical Association, GP pay will rise by between 10% and 50% depending on how much additional work individual doctors take on.

For the first time, a large proportion of their pay will also be linked to the quality of medical care they provide to GPs.

The average GP currently earns in the region of 61,000 annually, although many earn substantially more.

There is speculation this deal could see the average GP earn about 80,000 a year.

GPs will vote in March on whether to accept the new contract, agreed between the BMA, NHS managers and the government.

Patient benefits

Dr John Chisholm, chairman of the BMA's GPs committee, said the deal would benefit patients.

"This new contract, if accepted by family doctors, promises huge and historic extra resources for patient care and a much needed and major boost to GP earnings through rewards for the delivery of high quality care to patients."

Mike Farrar, of the NHS Confederation which led negotiations on behalf of the government, said: "We believe it will be good for GPs, and good for patients."

Health Minister John Hutton said: "The new contract is a something for something deal. Extra resources come in exchange for far reaching reforms."

Patient groups backed the extra money being pumped into primary care but expressed concerns about GPs being able to opt out of providing out-of-hours care.

Mike Stone, chief executive of the Patients Association, told BBC News Online: "I think people are going to be worried about the changes to out-of-hours cover, especially older people."

There is no guarantee GPs will back the deal. BMA negotiators have said they will not recommend the deal to doctors but instead ask them to make up their own minds.

Last year, consultants rejected a 21% pay rise and changes to their working practices amid fears their new contract would give NHS managers too much power over their working lives.



The BBC's Niall Dickson
"Not everyone's convinced patients will benefit"

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