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New contract set to end 10-minute GP consultations, say GP leaders

Exclusive The new Scottish GP contract, due to be phased in over the coming two years, will spell the end of the 10-minute GP consultation standard, the GPC has told Pulse.

Scottish GPC chair Dr Alan McDevitt said placing an ‘arbitrary figure’ on appointments ‘doesn’t help’ and there needed to be flexibility to enable GPs to ‘match availability to demand’.

According to Dr McDevitt, measures to be set out in the new GP contract, especially around other members of the primary care team taking on a greater role and reduced admin, would help make longer appointments possible by offering GPs the flexibility to expand appointment time where needed.

Under the contract, due to be phased in over a two-year period starting from April this year, the role of the GP will be dealing with undifferentiated presentations, complex care and ‘leading wider teams to improve patient outcomes’.

Dr McDevitt said: ‘I haven’t had a 10-minute appointment system for ages, but if you were to say everyone has 20-minute appointments you would need twice as many appointments. You can’t solve this contractually but by focusing on patients who need the GP most that’s how we expand appointment time.

‘The only way we can achieve that is to stop doing other things we don’t need to do.’

The idea of expanded 15-minute consultation slots was raised with NHS England last year by the GPC but there was concern that such a move would simply increase the length of the GP day.

The Scottish Government has pledged an additional £500m for primary care by 2020 with a relatively small £72m being made available in 2017/18.

It has also recently said that GPs would stop providing some services under the new contract, potentially including childhood and travel vaccinations.

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Dr McDevitt said one of his main aims for 2017 was to assist GPs with excess workload.

He said: ‘We have said that we are seeking to review the services that GPs provide and we are exploring how far we can go with that.

‘We can probably only take modest amount in next year but we are expecting a timeline in 2017 on how that will go.’

He added that by the time of the Scottish LMCs conference in March he hoped the Government would have provided a much clearer idea on how quickly other healthcare professionals can take on some of the GP workload.

Dr McDevitt also said that one of the first major changes he expected to see in the GP contract was on premises liabilities for last man standing practices.

‘We’re hoping to achieve quite a lot in 2017 but we can only go as fast as the funding changes going in,’ he said.

When is the new Scottish GP contract coming into force?

Scotland officially left UK contract negotiations in 2014, with a three-year stability deal agreed while working out a new Scottish GMS contract.

This was to be focused on caring for an increasingly multi-morbid elderly population, finding a solution to problems with GP recruitment and retention, being able to meet patient needs in remote and rural areas, as well as integration of health and social care services.

Although the contract was originally intended to be rolled out in full from this April, the Scottish Government and the GPC recently extended their stability deal until April 2018, telling GPs not to expect ‘big bang’ changes in 2017/18.

The changes will instead be phased in over the next two years.