General Practitioners' Income Protected in Case of Pandemic

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Article published on 13th May 2008

NHS Employers and the BMA's General Practitioners Committee (GPC) have come to an agreement concerning the nature of the service and resources offered by the General Medical Services (GMS) - that's GP practices to you and me - in the event of an influenza pandemic.

It states that if GP's put all their efforts into battling the emergency of a flu pandemic at the expense of some of their more routine GP duties they would not be penalised or financially disadvantaged. Their income on the NHS will be protected and delivered with any pay raises they would otherwise be due.

If a national pandemic has been declared in the UK (Alert Level 2 or 3) the General Practitioners income protection would commence at that point of declaration. The situation would be reviewed every three months to ensure its continued relevance in balance with the needs of other patients and the continued urgency of the pandemic management plans.

But what is a pandemic? and why, as an example, should it take precedence in terms of treatment over malignant cancers?

The World Health Organisation's (WHO) defines and epidemic as when a disease that is either entirely unknown or else new strain of a known disease emerges; when the infecting agent (the virus etc.) causes serious illness to humans; the disease spreads quickly and sustainably throughout the human population.

It is not enough for a disease or condition to be commonplace or the cause of many deaths for it to be a pandemic. A pandemic is necessarily highly contagious. For example heart disease is responsible for a huge number of deaths each year but it not considered a pandemic because it cannot be contracted via infection, like measles.

The Chairman of the British Medical Association's GPs' Committee, Dr Laurence Buckman, has said that a General Practitioners’ main concern is the care and treatment his or her patients and protecting public safety. But during a pandemic routine work may have to take a back seat while GPs join other health professionals in tackling what would be a serious situation.

However, the agreement ensures that GP's will not be disadvantaged by this suspension of their usual practice routines in the event of an influenza pandemic.

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