BMA leaders said the limited changes to the 2021/22 contract had been agreed to allow GPs and practice teams to remain focused on tackling the COVID-19 pandemic and the vaccination campaign.
The deal came as NHS figures on COVID-19 vaccination showed that on 20 January 318,151 first-dose jabs were administered in England – the second-highest daily total recorded – but with NHS services still under intense pressure, with the seven-day average daily number of new COVID-19 cases still above 40,000.
The limited contract agreement will see a 2.1% global sum uplift go ahead as part of the five-year deal that began in 2019 to cover pay and expenses increases – despite ongoing pay restraint in other parts of the public sector.
GP contract deal
Increased funding and flexibility over staff that can be brought into primary care networks (PCNs) through the additional roles reimbursement scheme will also kick in from April. Meanwhile the four new service specifications that were due to start in April under the network contract DES will now not go ahead.
The QOF will remain largely unchanged apart from a previously-agreed shift that will see the childhood immunisation DES replaced with item of service payments and a new vaccination and immunisation domain in the QOF. The move will transfer £60m in funding into the QOF from the DES.
Funding for physical health checks for patients with serious mental illness will also be increased to address health inequalities exposed by COVID-19.
The learning disabilities and early cancer diagnosis quality improvement modules for 2020/21 will be rolled over to 2021/22 but there may be minor changes to certain elements ‘to account for the impact of the pandemic’.
In addition, the transfer of extended access enhanced service payments to primary care network level in many areas will be pushed back to April 2022 – although commissioners have been encouraged to make local arrangements to transfer ‘services and funding’ to PCNs ahead of that date if possible.
BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘Given the unprecedented pressures on general practice and the wider NHS – not least in delivering the largest vaccination campaign in history – now is not the time to introduce major contractual changes. What’s needed is stability, reassurance and support, allowing GPs and their teams to focus on the most pressing tasks at hand.
‘We are therefore glad to have secured agreement with NHS England to hold off on any significant changes or requirements from April, while continuing to support practices and their patients through the most challenging period of the pandemic so far.
‘We will continue discussions with NHS England in the months to come, ensuring any changes later in the year deliver the best for general practice and their patients – as the huge efforts to rebuild once the worst of the pandemic is over truly begin.’
Changes to the contract for the year ahead are set out in full in a BMA letter to the profession.