Doctors and nurses yesterday hit back at health secretary Patricia Hewitt’s complaint that the government should have capped GP’s pay.
Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of the British Medical Association GP’s Committee responded to her comments: ‘The increases in GP pay were directly linked, at government insistence, to demonstrating the quality of the services they provide.
‘In saying she wishes, with hindsight, she had restricted their pay increases, Patricia Hewitt is effectively saying she wishes they didn’t provide such high quality care for their patients.
‘Does the Secretary of State for Health really wish family doctors had performed less well on meeting the quality targets she and her predecessors agreed?
‘The BMA, in negotiations, did predict that general practice would do well on quality measures because they reflected work that to a large extent was already taking place.
‘But even the best practices have shown improvements under the new contract.
‘Yes GP pay has risen, but not at the rate quoted by the government and reproduced in the media.
‘The independent body that calculates GP pay has admitted that the often-quoted, headline figures are neither accurate nor comparable with previous figures as they are not comparing like with like.
‘Family doctors are responsible for patients 52.5 hours a week, they make house calls every day along with packed surgeries, telephone consultations and the mountains of paperwork and other work that looking after patients and running a surgery now entails.
‘Despite local NHS bodies now being responsible for providing an out-of-hours service, GP workload has never been higher.
‘Patricia Hewitt should be proud of the achievements of general practice, not denigrating doctors for delivering top quality care which has saved thousands of patients from heart attacks, strokes and other potentially life-threatening illnesses.’
Royal College of Nursing (RCN) General Secretary Dr Peter Carter also rejected Hewitt’s suggestion, saying: ‘GPs offer excellent value for money and together with the rest of the NHS team have been instrumental in pushing through government reforms.
‘That’s why the pay of all of those working in the NHS should reflect their skills, professionalism and commitment to patients.
‘Of course we need value for money and that’s exactly what every member of the NHS team delivers day in day out.
‘That’s why waiting times are down, patient care has improved and more patients are being treated than ever. Put simply: by investing in NHS staff you are investing in patient care.’