Avian flu to dominate Scottish LMCs debate

Preparations for an avian flu pandemic and broken promises in the GP contract are two of the subjects up for debate at this year's annual conference of Scottish LMCs.

Scottish GPs' representatives were gathering in Glasgow as GP went to press for the one-day conference on Thursday.

Just a few weeks after a swan in Fife was found to have died from the lethal H5N1 strain of flu, GPs will discuss how to prepare for a possible pandemic should the H5N1 virus mutate into a form transmissible between humans.

Tayside LMC is calling for urgent talks between the Scottish GPC and the Scottish Executive to discuss support for GP practices should this happen.

Dr Andrew Buist, LMC secretary, said the situation in Cellardyke, where the dead swan was found, was 'a wake-up call'.

'We have been told that this virus will come. It might not happen until next year but it might be next month. We need to be prepared,' he said.

'Given that we have a primary care-led health service, it's not unreasonable for those who will be picking up the pieces to want to know what's going to happen.'

Dr Buist said that plans by Tayside Health Board set out a worst case scenario of 25 per cent of the population being infected.

Yet the plans estimated that only 10 per cent would seek medical attention from GPs, which Dr Buist described as 'a gross underestimation'.

'It may reflect patient behaviour at the end of the first world war when people were much more stoic, but not now. Unless we plan for it, GP services could be overrun,' he said.

GPs will also discuss whether recent changes to the quality framework of the GP contract have resulted in more unresourced work for family doctors.

Lothian LMC is to propose that the 2005/6 review of the GMS contract has broken the promise that new work would be followed by new money.

Dr Peter Shishodia, chairman of Lothian LMC, said that GPs fear there may be 'potential Trojan horses' in the new contract.

'There's been an administrative and box ticking mentality which hasn't fulfilled the promise of low bureaucracy and high trust,' he said.

Lothian LMC is to claim that this has resulted in a loss of confidence in the GMS contract among GPs.

'There are mutterings that workload has gone up and GP income has remained static,' said Dr Shishodia. 'There's a concern that it's a pattern that might continue and, if it does, then the work that's been done in the last few years will be undermined.'

Argyll and Clyde LMC is to bring a motion which says that changes for 2006/7 should not be introduced without the additional funding that was promised in the original 'no new work without new money' mantra of the GMS contract.

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