Dr Alan McDevitt: New contract can stabilise general practice in Scotland

GPs in Scotland have backed major contract reforms that will take effect from April. GPC Scotland chair Dr Alan McDevitt explains why he believes the deal can re-stabilise general practice.

Dr Alan McDevitt: contract can stabilise general practice (Photo: BMA Scotland)
Dr Alan McDevitt: contract can stabilise general practice (Photo: BMA Scotland)

For several years now, GPs in Scotland have been clear that fundamental change is needed to return general practice to a sustainable footing. The decision to implement the new contract we have negotiated with the Scottish government marks a landmark step towards achieving that stability.

The BMA’s Scottish GP committee took the decision to proceed with implementation of the new GMS contract for Scotland from April 2018 following strong backing from the profession.

In total 2,776 people took part in the poll of the profession, with 71.5% (1,970) supporting implementation of the contract and 28.5% (785) opposing it.

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I would like to thank everybody who took part in the poll, attended a contract roadshow, or contacted us with their questions and feedback. This participation and discussion has allowed the committee to be sure that the contract has the backing of the majority of the profession before deciding how to proceed.

This contract offers stability and security of funding for practices in Scotland. Implementation of the contract will help to relieve the unsustainable workload facing general practice and reduce the business risks of becoming a GP.

It will enable some of the services currently performed by GPs to be done by other healthcare professionals in expanded multi-disciplinary teams, freeing up GP time to focus on being GPs. That is good news for the profession and good news for our patients.

Rural GP concerns

While the contract has received the backing of a large majority of GPs in Scotland, I am conscious that not everybody felt able to give the contract their support.

In particular, we have heard loudly and clearly the concerns of rural GPs in particular that additional staff and services will not be delivered in their area or that the income and expenses guarantee will prove temporary or be eroded.

A short life working group will be established, tasked with providing solutions so that the contract is delivered in a way that works well for rural areas and will also look for further ways in which rural general practice can be supported. This is the approach that successfully led to the proposals around premises loans in the contract proposal and I am confident that it will help to ensure that this is a contract that delivers for all parts of general practice.

The new contract maintains the funding that was put in place to support remote and rural practices in the current contract, but does so in a way that will no longer see practices relatively underfunded for the workload associated with elderly and deprived populations in particular.

This contract offers something to GP practices in every part of Scotland and I hope that young doctors will be encouraged by the direction we are going in to choose a career in general practice. It is a first step on a path towards making general practice in Scotland sustainable for the future and I am delighted that we are setting out on that journey.

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