GPs in Scotland have from 7 December to 4 January to vote in a BMA poll on the contract offer, which offers measures including a guaranteed £80,000 minimum income per partner, a programme to free GPs of responsibility for premises and plans to tackle rising workload. BMA Scotland is urging doctors to back the deal, but has urged all eligible GPs to make sure they vote.
The deal won strong support at a special LMCs conference this month, but has divided the profession - with many rural GPs fearing it will put their future at risk.
The Rural GP Association of Scotland has recognised that a 'new direction of travel' is important for the future of primary care in Scotland, but fears revisions to the funding formula proposed under the new contract fail to recognise the needs of rural practices.
The campaign group GP Survival in Scotland has warned that some of its members plan to resign if the new contract is implemented. A survey of the group's members last month found that 43% planned to vote against the deal, and just 31% in favour, with the rest undecided.
> Contract could spark resignations despite LMC support
> How the GP role will change under the new contract
> How the new contract takes away the burden of premises
> Read the proposed Scottish contract deal in full
Launching the ballot on Thursday, Scottish GPC chair Dr Alan McDevitt said: 'I would urge GPs to accept the new contract offer. GPs across Scotland have been telling us of the pressures that they are facing. Over a quarter of practices have at least one GP vacancy, and we are increasingly hearing of practices having to hand back responsibility to the health board.
'We must adopt new ways of working if we are to reverse these trends. I believe that this contract sets us in a new direction, whilst retaining the key characteristics that we value, such as the independent contractor status and autonomy to deliver services which are appropriate for our communities.'
'The Scottish government has pledged a significant amount of funding in direct support of general practice through this contract proposal. No practice will see a reduction in income under the new contract, and many practices will see an increase in income. The proposed contract will also expand golden hellos in rural areas and provides financial assistance for relocation costs, which will help rural GP recruitment.
'I truly believe that the contract we have negotiated will, if implemented, bring significant benefits to general practice across the country and help to attract more young doctors into careers as GPs.'