It's been a busy week in the world of general practice (isn't it always).
Last Thursday, the government announced that practices would receive a 1.16% overall rise in GP contract payments for 2015/16.
Ministers claimed this would deliver the 1% rise for GPs that was recommended by the Doctors and Dentists Review Body. The GPC and accountants begged to differ.
The GPC said the 1.16% increase would not even cover the rise in practice expenses. Meanwhile, accountants said that the best that GP partners could expect was a pay freeze after increases in pay for salaried GPs and other staff were taken into account.
After successive years of real-term pay cuts, it’s clear the 1.16% rise is not going to stem falling GP pay and will do little to help with the wider GP recruitment problem.
Pharmacist army to the rescue
Speaking of recruitment, the RCGP and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) have unveiled plans for a ‘hidden army’ of pharmacists to work in GP practices to tackle workload problems.
The organisations say that while there is a shortage of GPs, there is an oversupply of pharmacists who could be employed by GP practices to see patients, conduct medication reviews and work in much the same way as a practice nurse.
The proposals received widespread coverage, but there are in fact many practices across the country who already employ pharmacists and have seen big benefits from doing so. One such practice is the Tamar Valley Health Medical Practices in Cornwall who wrote about the advantages of having two pharmacists as part of their team for Medeconomics last year.
As we hurtle towards the end of March, practices across the country are frantically working to meet all their QOF and enhanced service targets and deadlines. Medeconomics has a handy year-end checklist to help you make sure you don’t forget anything.
But could the year-end points chasing become a thing of the past? Recent events suggest the writing is well and truly on the wall for the QOF.
It’s no secret that the current Secretary of State is keen to abolish targets and has the QOF in his sights, but recent developments in Wales and Scotland suggest Celtic countries may be the first to do away with the framework.
According to the chair of the Scottish GPC, Scottish practices will 'no longer be paid' for hitting QOF targets from April 2017 when the current fixed three-year deal for Scottish practices expires.
Meanwhile, earlier this month, the Welsh GPC and Welsh government agreed a two-year deal that will axe 102 points (worth almost £16,000 to the average practice) from the QOF wuth the funding moving into core pay. We still await details on what the actual changes to the Welsh QOF will be, but they will be published on Medeconomics as soon as they are available.
- Emma Bower is the editor of Medeconomics firstname.lastname@example.org