Scottish government pledges £100m to support new GP contract in 2018

Scottish health secretary Shona Robison has pledged £100m funding to support the proposed new GP contract for Scotland from 2018 and a recruitment drive to boost GP numbers by 800 over the coming decade.

In a speech that won sustained applause from GPs at a special LMCs conference in Clydebank, near Glasgow on Friday, Ms Robison said the proposed contract would 'cut doctors' overall workload and make general practice an even more attractive career prospect'.

The contract would be backed by £100m in funding in 2018/19, the health secretary told GPs, and £7.5m will also be available in 2018/19 to support recruitment and retention - with £2m of this focused on rural areas. A Scottish government spokeswoman later confirmed to GPonline that the £100m was part of the £250m GP funding rise by 2021 promised earlier this year.

'Golden hello' funding worth £10,000 and relocation packages worth up to £5,000 will be made available to all 160 remote and rural practices in Scotland - up from just over 40 that currently benefit.

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Ms Robison also set out plans for continuing professional development support for GPs in their first five years and coaching for those later in their careers to encourage retention. She also promised expanded GP retention schemes and an 'intensive recruitment campaign' to use the new contract to bring in doctors from elsewhere in the UK and abroad.

The promise of an extra 800 GPs by 2027 would mean a more than 16% increase on the current GP workforce in Scotland of around 4,900.

Ms Robison told the conference: 'The new GP contract, a historic joint agreement between the Scottish government and the BMA, will ensure that GPs are able to spend more time with patients and less time on bureaucracy. If accepted, it will help cut doctors’ overall workload and make general practice an even more attractive career prospect.

'However we want to go further. As multi-disciplinary teams are developed further within GP practices, our ambition is to increase the number of GPs by at least 800 over 10 years to ensure a sustainable service for the future.

GP funding

'GP recruitment concerns are not unique to Scotland, however our commitment to invest £7.5m, including expanding the remote and rural incentive scheme and relocation funds, should have a real impact going forward.

'Ultimately, this will ensure people across Scotland continue to receive a high standard of care whether they’re in Newtonmore or Newton Mearns, and that those who need to see GPs are given the time they need.'

Responding to questions at the end of the speech, Ms Robison sought to allay fears of rural GPs who have warned in recent days that the new conference could lead to their extinction - despite pledges that no practice will see funding decrease - because changes to the funding formula do not adequately recognise rural needs.

'We have a job to do to make sure that trust is built up,' she said. 'It is not in anyone's interest to not see general practice flourishing in rural communities. We will continue to work on this to make sure we give confidence around that - I'm happy to meet to discuss those concerns. This is a contract for the whole of Scotland - we need to work together to make it work.'

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