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Minister considering how to consult with stakeholders in GP talks

Last month Minister Simon Harris announced that the NAGP would be invited into the talks. This move and others have caused some concern with the IMO, which has called for an urgent meeting with the Minister.

The Medical Independent (MI) asked the Department of Health whether the Minister would be inviting other groups into the talks, such as nursing organisations or the ICGP. The NAGP has previously called for other stakeholders beyond the IMO and itself to be part of the talks.

“In order to ensure that primary healthcare will be enhanced for our citizens by a new contract for general practice services, the Minister is currently considering a number of options around this process, including the most appropriate arrangements for stakeholder consultation,” a Department spokesperson told MI.

Also, this newspaper has learned that the NAGP wrote to the Minister in June saying that it was “perfectly willing” to work with the IMO and others if it was allowed to join the negotiations. The letter, seen by MI following a Freedom of Information (FoI) request, was written after the NAGP held a meeting with the Minister.

“The fact that the NAGP has to-date been excluded has meant that over 1,600 GPs have been without a voice at the table,” NAGP Chairman Dr Andy Jordan wrote to the Minister on 23 June.

“The NAGP is of course perfectly willing to work with the IMO and all other stakeholders who are at the negotiating table.”

Following the confirmation by Minister Harris that the NAGP will be invited to participate in future contract talks, the NAGP has commenced its engagement process with GPs. The association held what was described as a productive think tank on  27-28 August with its National Council members to discuss a number of key issues affecting GPs. An NAGP sub-committee to oversee contract negotiations will be established by the National Council in the coming weeks.

Late last month the IMO released a strongly worded statement saying it had not “received any communication from the Department of Health in relation to this matter” [the NAGP joining the contract talks].

“However, we are very concerned at comments by the Minister that ongoing GP contract talks will be delayed until the end of the year, despite previous commitments that the next phase of the talks, dealing with the provision of chronic care in general practice, would commence in September. 

“The IMO has asked for an urgent meeting with the Minister to clarify the position regarding the ongoing talks, which have to-date dealt with under sixes and asthma cycle of care, diabetic cycle of care for GMS patients, new rural practice support framework, extension of retirement age on a voluntary basis, part-time and flexible contracts, amendments in fees to some existing special items of service, and new special items of service including 24-hour APB and LARCs along with preliminary discussions on childhood vaccination schemes.”

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