GPs will be paid on time despite threat

DOCTORS in east Suffolk have given a cautious reaction to the news their payments will not be deferred into the next financial year - as health bosses had previously warned.

DOCTORS in east Suffolk have given a cautious reaction to the news their payments will not be deferred into the next financial year - as health bosses had previously warned.

In November the EADT learnt senior staff at Suffolk East Primary Care Trusts met with GPs to discuss the option of delaying their funding until April because they were worried they would not have enough cash left in early 2006 and were struggling to balance the books.

GPs across the region reacted with alarm, saying any longer delay than a few days could put their practices at risk because they would be unable to pay vital costs such as rents and salaries.

At the time a spokeswoman for East Suffolk PCTs said any deferral was only a possibility and would be taken as an absolute last resort.


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Last night it was confirmed that letters had been sent out to all GP surgeries throughout the Ipswich, Suffolk Coastal and Central Suffolk regions telling them the payments would not be delayed.

However, doctors have given a cautious response to the announcement and are refusing to get too carried away believing that because the threat of deferred payments has happened once it could happen again.

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Dr Robert James, of the Howard House practice in Felixstowe, said: “I don't think we can blow it out of proportion because who's to say that it won't happen again?

“Unfortunately the next time the PCTs are short of money I think we can probably expect them to consider similar measures. The problems may have been resolved for the time being but we will have to worry about it again in the future.”

Dr Paul Thomas, from Gipping Valley Practice in Barham, near Ipswich, said: “It was a very unusual proposal in the first place so I am not surprised the PCTs are going to pay us on time. I think the agenda is to make life as difficult as possible for all GPs and to privatise the NHS through the back door.”

Meanwhile Dr John Havard, from the Saxmundham HealthGroup, said he never thought the threat to defer payments would become a reality and that it was simply “clutching at straws by a desperate PCT in a panic.”

However the news has come as a relief to GPs at the Combs Ford Surgery in Stowmarket, who warned they would be forced to close for one month if funding was postponed because it could not operate on “goodwill alone.”

But now a notice with the headline “Good News” is displayed at the practice stating: “The PCT are going to pay us in March so the surgery will not be closing.

Dr Rod Donnelly, chairman of the Suffolk division of the British Medical Association, said: “It is good news. It was a bizarre thing they were suggesting that they were going to do.

“It would have affected not just the doctors but staff and nurses as well.”

A spokesman for East Suffolk PCTs said: “We are very pleased to confirm, thanks to external cash support from the Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire Strategic Health Authority, that we intend to pay all GP practices on time.”

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