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Ministers invite GPC for talks on separate Scottish GP contract deal

Exclusive: GP leaders have been invited to negotiate a separate contract deal in Scotland for next year as the impact of events south of the border threatens to speed the break-up of the UK GP contract.

The Scottish Government said it was committed to working with the BMA in Scotland to come up with a contract that ‘works for both parties’ and that it would be ‘taking a different approach’ to the UK Government.

The Scottish Government usually bases its negotiations over the GP contract on the UK-wide deal, but said this year the ‘impasse’ in talks over the UK-wide contract had prompted a move toward separate talks.

As Pulse revealed earlier this year, the Scottish Government has consulted on what a Scottish version of the GMS contract should contain and was looking at developing a series of Scottish-only QOF indicators by April 2014.

But ministers in Scotland look to be going further after than this after the Department of Health threatened to impose a UK-wide deal that would give GP practices a 1.5% gross uplift in practice funding in return for a raft of new work under QOF and new enhanced services.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said talks with the BMA over the UK-wide deal had broken down and that it would impose the deal unilaterally if the union did not accept the changes it had offered.

Scottish health secretary Alex Neil said: ‘Given the impasse in the UK negotiations on the GP contract, we have invited the BMA for talks on arrangements in Scotland which would better suit both patients and GPs.

‘We agree with the BMA that the market driven model being put in place in England represents a real threat to the NHS and to GPs ability to treat patients effectively – but Scottish patients shouldn’t suffer because of this.

‘That’s why we want to take a different approach in Scotland and want to work closely with the BMA to agree a Scottish arrangement that takes account of workloads and meet the needs of Scottish patients.’

‘Both the BMA and the Scottish Government want the same thing – a well-functioning health service that meets the needs of Scottish patients. We will be working to achieve that over the next month.’

When asked if this means that Scotland will move to an entirely separate GP contract, a Scottish Government spokesperson said: ‘They are still ongoing discussions – nothing has been confirmed.’

In an email sent out to members this week, GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman said: ‘Health secretary Jeremy Hunt today issued a statement which made clear he intends to impose a programme of new changes to the GP contract despite the fact the BMA and NHS Employers had almost concluded their detailed annual negotiations which had been underway for the past five months.’

‘In the devolved nations: We do not yet know how what contract changes will be made in Wales and Northern Ireland. In Scotland, the Cabinet Secretary has indicated willingness, within the context of the UK contract, to enter into further detailed discussions with an aim of reaching a negotiated agreement for this year that meets the needs of both the Scottish Government and general practice.’

‘The BMA’s Scottish GP committee will keep members updated on the progress of these discussions.’

Dr Alan McDevitt, Scottish GPC chair, said the move was ‘helpful’.

‘The Scottish Government recognises the workload pressures facing general practice and acknowledges that GPs need a more stable financial environment from which to continue delivering high quality care to patients now and in the future.’

‘This willingness to enter into discussions is a positive first step by the Scottish Government and I hope that we can reach a negotiated settlement in Scotland.’

The move to develop a separate deal in Scotland also comes as the Scottish Government was in the process of setting up a ‘programme board’ to look at how to implement a more Scottish-focussed contract.