GP trainee pay will not be cut in Scotland, says Scottish health minister

Scottish health secretary Shona Robison has given the RCGP a 'cast-iron guarantee' that Scotland's government will not cut GP trainee pay, branding UK health secretary Jeremy Hunt's proposals to slash it by a third as 'beyond the pale'.

Scottish health minister Shona Robison
Scottish health minister Shona Robison

Speaking at the RCGP annual conference, Ms Robison also confirmed that the QOF could be axed from the Scottish contract by next year as it gears up for ‘radical changes’ to the primary care system in 2017.

The RCGP has written to Mr Hunt demanding a ‘cast-iron guarantee’ that plans to scrap the GP trainee supplement – which amounts to a third of trainee pay – will not see trainees paid less. He has yet to respond.

Ms Robison said the plans were ‘appalling’. ‘I know that the RCGP is very concerned about the proposals to cut GP trainees’ pay in England and the growing confusion and alarm that this is causing trainees.

Watch the full video of Shona Robison's speech

‘I'm appalled, frankly, at the actions of Jeremy Hunt, whose threats to junior doctors’ terms and conditions in England are beyond the pale.

‘So let me give you this assurance. In Scotland, I can give you a cast-iron guarantee that we will not be following his plans to cut junior doctors’ pay.’

New GP contract

GPs are ‘an integral and vital part of our NHS’, she told conference. ‘You make a difference to people’s lives every day. Patients the length and breadth of our islands look to GPs for the vast majority of our health needs.’

The Scottish government has started work on redesigning the new Scottish GP contract for April 2017. The ‘radical reforms’ will see GPs take on the role of expert generalists in multidisciplinary teams where they will not always be the patient’s first point of contact.

She is listening ‘very carefully’ to concerns from GPs on the front line, which will have a direct impact on how the contract will change.

As part of the changes, work on ‘dismantling’ the QOF has already begun. Scottish GPC chairman Dr Alan McDevitt confirmed to GPonline in March that QOF would be scrapped in the next contract.

QOF scrapped

But Ms Robison said the QOF could be absent from the Scottish contract from next year. A transitional arrangement for quality will be implemented for 2016/17 ahead of the new contract.

‘The QOF has delivered many innovations, but its time has passed,’ she said. ‘Scottish GPs need a new and different future, starting in 2016.’

Ms Robison added: ‘This commitment to the transformation of primary care comes with a commitment to invest. In Scotland we spend £12bn a year on our health service. Of that, £770m is spent on general practice. In addition, we recently announced a further £60m primary care transformation fund.’

The government is also in the midst of discussing a further £2.5m to boost GP recruitment and retention in Scotland, especially to improve recruitment to rural and deprived areas.

‘I can give you my absolute assurance that invest in primary care is one of my key priorities,’ she said.

Photo: Gevi Dimitrak

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