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BMA calls for Scottish Government to speed up delivery of GP contract

The BMA has called for faster implementation of the new Scottish GP contract, a year on from its introduction. 

GP committee chair Dr Andrew Buist said over the next two years, the pace of change must increase.

He called on health boards and the Scottish Government to meet their commitments after seeing a mixed picture of progress over the past 12 months. 

The contract which came into force on the 1st April 2018, outlined direct reimbursement of practice and staff expenses, a move away from GPs owning premises and a focus on the GP as an expert medical generalist at the head of a multidisciplinary team.

It also included the transfer of responsibility of some services, including vaccination to health boards without loss of funding.

While some areas have reported some success in getting new multi-disciplinary teams in place, others have yet to move much past the planning stage.

A second round of negotiations, focusing on direct reimbursement and GP pay is set to begin in 2020 and will go out for another vote.

Some rural GPs remain unhappy about the terms of the contract and recently walked away from a government committee set up to address their concerns.

Dr Buist said the core aim of the contract remains to restore hope to the profession and make GP more of a career choice for young doctors.

‘As we mark the one-year anniversary of the Scottish GP contract, it is worth reflecting on the huge challenges that faced us when we signed the contract.

‘Of course, these deep-seated problems – such as there simply not being enough GPs – were never going to be solved in a single year.’

He added: ‘Over the last 12 months, I have seen a mixed picture across Scotland and varied progress.

‘There is much work to be done, so we need to see an increased pace of change.

‘This needs the Scottish Government to continue to play its part to the full and deliver on our shared commitments – and to ensure health boards do the same.’

Dr Buist said 172 applications for government-funded sustainability loans, one of the most popular aspects of the new contract designed to reduce the risk of premises ownership, had already been approved.

‘On top of that, this month a new minimum earnings guarantee is due to begin, ensuring no full-time GP earns below £70,000.

‘But it’s also important to stress that the GP contract is about far more than just money. Essentially we need to deliver this contract to make working as a GP attractive again and ensure that recruitment and retention problems will be alleviated.’

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We are investing a further £7.5m in Scotland in 2018-19 in GP recruitment and retention. By the end of this parliament we will have invested an additional £500m per year in Primary Care – £250m of which will be in direct support of general practice.”

It comes after warnings that funding for some practices in the most deprived areas of Scotland would worsen the health inequalities under the new contract, according to RCGP.