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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 March 2008, 11:45 GMT
GPs reluctantly agree hours plan
GP writing a prescription (Photo: Science Photo Library)
Ministers want GPs to work for longer
GPs have given ministers a huge vote of no confidence in the row over making doctors open for longer hours - but have reluctantly agreed to work them.

Some 97% of 27,000 GPs polled said they did not have faith in the government.

The British Medical Association survey was run to gauge opinion on which of two options family doctors preferred.

Both required GPs to work longer to earn the most under their contract, but they opted for the one that meant they risked least money if they did not.

Negotiations between the government and BMA, the doctors' trade union, broke down just before Christmas over how the extended hours in the evening and Saturday morning should be built into the contract.

It cannot be good to have such a key part of the health workforce feeling disengaged from the way the government is handling the health service
Dr Laurence Buckman, of the British Medical Association

Ministers effectively served notice that they would impose the longer hours in April, giving doctors a choice of two options.

Both required the average size practice - one with three GPs - to open for three hours extra.

The only difference between the two was the amount of money linked to it.

The UK-wide poll showed while nearly all doctors were opposed to the options when pushed 92% went for option A, which means GPs will only lose 18,000 on average for not complying, compared to almost double that under the second choice.

It just now remains for the BMA to indicate to government which option the profession prefers.

The BMA had originally been willing to agree to longer hours, but did not want it to be as many as three.

It comes after prime minister Gordon Brown made GP hours one of his priorities when he took power.

Mr Brown said: "These improvements are critical if the NHS is to deliver more personal services and better focus on preventing ill health at an early stage.

"Our task is now to work with GPs to implement these reforms."


Ministers have long been pushing for more from GPs after a new contract in 2004 saw their pay soar through the 100,000 a year barrier.

But the BMA warned the government its handling of the situation had been damaging.

Dr Laurence Buckman, chairman of the BMA's GPs committee, said: "It cannot be good to have such a key part of the health workforce feeling disengaged from the way the government is handling the health service.

"The effect can only be corrosive and in the long-term it is not a good way to get the best service for patients."

Alastair Henderson, acting director of NHS Employers, which had been negotiating for the government on longer hours, said: "This was the best option for GPs and their patients."

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