Whoever negotiated the GP Contract on behalf of the Department of Health should never be allowed near a negotiation again, but knowing this government, the self same person was probably also responsible for negotiating the famous 'red lines' in Lisbon.
I begrudge no one a fair return for their work, but a 60 per cent rise in pay for seeing 40 per cent fewer patients is not something that is defensible. This applies to GP partners, some of whom now earn £250k per annum. Salaried GPs are on £74k, while the average for partner GPs is £113,000.
The problem is not that people begrudge GPs a high level of pay, it is that they see the service they are getting deteriorate, with surgeries closing more often in the evenings and weekends. The government says it is addressing this but it is a problem of their own making.
I was astonished to read in today's Times that Andrew Lansley is promising to outdo Labour in spending on the NHS. He says that spending will rise from 9 per cent of GDP to 11 per cent. Assuming an annual average growth rate in the economy of two per cent, that extra sum is quite staggering. Health Service inflation has always been higher than in the rest of the economy, but even so, for an opposition spokesman to commit to such an increase is, shall we say, 'surprising' to put it mildly.
Such a commitment cannot possibly have been made without the agreement of Philip Hammond and George Osborne. Putting aside my strong view that the Tories should be slashing the overall level of public spending, this really does underline to NHS professionals that the Conservatives are determined to put the NHS at the forefront of their election appeal. I just wish it didn't have to be the case that to do that they have to dangle billions of extra money in front of people. It shouldn't always just be about money and a spending war with Labour. Competence, radical reform and efficiency are far more important.