Exclusive: Scottish government 'relaxed' about breakaway GP contract

Scotland's health minister says he is 'relaxed' about creating a breakaway Scottish GP contract if BMA leaders agree this is the right way to go.

Scottish health minister Alex Neil: breakaway GP deal possible

Speaking exclusively to GP, Alex Neil said the deal for 2013/14, which protects Scottish practices from losing MPIG top-ups to core pay that are due to be axed in England, was not a one-off.

Describing his government’s relationship with the BMA as ‘very friendly and positive’, Mr Neil said GP leaders had ‘a decision to make’.

‘We would be relaxed about a separate Scottish contract because we feel healthcare is travelling in a different direction south of the border,’ he said.

‘The BMA has a decision to make on what it would prefer. We are not ruling it out and we are not insisting on it either,’ he added.

Workload topped a list of concerns for GPs at a recent contract roadshow in Glasgow. Mr Neil said this was ‘all the more reason to build on the success of the contract deal’ for 2013/14. He said: ‘The BMA said GPs’ main concern was workload and we said we would look at how we can reduce bureaucracy.’

In addition to protecting MPIG for Scottish practices, the deal between GPC Scotland and the Holyrood government will use £10,000 in QOF funding cut from organisational indicators to top up core funding. In England, practices face new targets to earn this money back.

GPC Scotland chairman Dr Alan McDevitt said he would be prepared to negotiate another Scotland-only deal if the UK government sought to impose unfair changes.

But he said a UK-wide contract is still relevant. ‘We believe that nearly everything in the contract has relevance to Scotland,’ he said.

Mr Neil said he was ‘thoroughly enjoying’ the role he had inherited from former health minister Nicola Sturgeon, and would focus on integrating health and social care.

‘If health had not been devolved, it would have been a disaster for Scotland,’ he added.

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