§ Mr. Win Griffiths
We have no plans to do so at present as this is primarily a matter for the profession. I understand that the General Medical Council and the BMA have each established helplines to give advice to GPs who may be affected by stress.
For its part, the Government are taking steps to relieve the pressure on the GP workforce. More doctors are being trained than ever before and medical school intake is being increased by 11 per cent. over the next few years. Overall GP numbers are increasing and the average list size continues to fall (down to 1,705 in April 1997).
We have also taken steps to simplify the remuneration and operational aspects of the GP contract to relieve the burdens on individual GPs.
New opportunities for GPs to provide services in different ways which are best suited to individual and local circumstances were introduced with the Primary Care Act 1997. For example, some doctors have indicated that they should like to move to salaried status in order to be relieved of the administrative and other burdens of independent practice.
In November of last year we also introduced changes to the national contract for GPs enabling practices to fund the employment of other doctors with the aid of funds held at Health Authority level.
Finally, we have accepted the recommendations of the Review Body on Doctors' and Dentists' Remuneration that an additional £60 million be made available on a GB basis from 1999–2000 for the enhancement of general 765W medical practitioners' net remuneration (in addition to the general award of a 5.2 per cent. increase which is to be implemented in two stages during 1998). We are exploring with the profession ways in which this money may best be targeted to help relieve the burdens of practices with the greatest pressures.