GP access review to pave way for breakaway Scottish contract

A breakaway GMS contract for Scotland could be a step closer after the Scottish government launched a review of GP access as part of a bid to transform its approach to primary care.

Scottish health minister Alex Neil: NHS in Scotland going in different direction from England
Scottish health minister Alex Neil: NHS in Scotland going in different direction from England

Scottish health minister Alex Neil said there is an ‘urgent need for an expanded role for primary care and general practice’ and promised to free GPs from bureaucracy so that they could spend longer with patients.

He told Scottish MPs on 5 November that he wanted to ‘modernise the GP contract and transform our approach to primary care’ before launching a review of access across all GP practices in Scotland. An action plan will be drawn up to address any issues arising from the review, he said.

‘That is just the first stage,’ he said. ‘We need to move to a new contract for GPs to match our 2020 vision and to recognise that the direction of travel of the health service north of the border is entirely different from the direction of travel south of the border, particularly in primary care and how it is organised.

'That will take time, but my clear ambition is for a new Scottish GP contract that will ensure that GPs get the time to do what they need and want to do, which is to work with individuals to ensure that their medical care is right for them, for their family and carers and for the local environment.

‘GPs are of course only part of primary care, and we must develop a full approach to safe, effective and person-centred primary care.

‘We are currently carefully considering with the BMA in Scotland what next year’s contract should look like.’

GPC Scotland chairman Dr Alan McDevitt warned that GPs in Scotland were already working to capacity and could not widen access without more funding.

‘We know that patients value good access to their GP and that is why we encourage practices to regularly review their access and continuity of care arrangements to ensure they are appropriate to their patients’ health needs,’ he said.

‘General practice is facing immediate pressures: a rising population and growing list sizes, increased complexity of care and an ageing population. However at the same time, general practice is working at maximum capacity, workload is rising and funding is falling.

‘These are difficult challenges and I am pleased that the Scottish government is working with us to try to identify solutions that could improve access without compromising quality or safety of care. Without additional resources to increase the capacity of general practice, it will be almost impossible to achieve the government’s vision for the NHS in Scotland.

‘We welcome the cabinet secretary’s commitment to reduce bureaucracy for GPs in order to allow them to spend more time with their patients and I hope that we can take forward discussions to make this commitment a reality for GPs in Scotland.’

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