At a glance: The new General Medical Services (GMS) contract

This was all agreed last June. Why has the Department of Health issued fresh guidance now?

Because things are by no means done and dusted. Lots of GPs are still unsure about exactly how the revamped arrangements will affect them. The DoH is trying to give primary care trusts and practices more help when it comes to discussing the detail of the individual contracts themselves, which need to be signed by the end of March. The contract will be fully implemented from April .

Governments are always issuing notes on something. Should GPs take much notice of this one?

It’s been agreed with the the NHS Confederation and the GP Committee of the BMA. So, yes.

In what way does the new document affect healthcare PROs?

If nothing else, it is the latest word from the inside on issues such as flexibility of services, how financing is going to work and how existing infrastructure needs to be modernised. The changes in primary care are huge, so PROs still have a lot of work to do in terms of interpreting the new arrangements and explaining the way they will work.

Presumably you mean more than just offering GPs new products?

That’s obviously a part of it, since there will be incentives for GPs to increase prescribing in some areas. Continuing to prove how efficient different drugs are will be an important function. But there is also room for suggesting solutions to practices when it comes to meeting new targets as well. There is a performance-related pay element to the new contracts, after all, with doctors getting extra points – which equals money – for demonstrating quality of patient care, for example.

Has anyone mentioned ‘thinking outside the box’ yet?

Not exactly. But health minister John Hutton’s message to primary care trusts and practices is: ‘It is now up to you to be ambitious, to be bold and to be innovative, as together you make it work.’

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