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Plans floated to protect GP partners from ‘last man standing’ liabilities

The BMA and Scottish Government are in talks to produce national guidance to make it easier for GPs to hand back contracts to health boards when they get into difficulty and avoid ‘last man standing’ partnership woes.

A key part of the ‘Code of Practice’ being negotiated is scrapping the current rules on premises which are preventing health boards acquiring property or taking over a lease in the event of practice closure.

The onerous process has led to several circumstances where a GP partner has become ‘stuck’ in a last man standing scenario, the BMA said.

Dr Alan McDevitt, GPC Scotland chair, said that in an emergency crisis situation health boards are finding themselves unable to solve premises problems because of bureaucratic NHS property purchasing rules, which requires health boards to undertake lengthy analyses.

‘Practices can find themselves in difficulty quite quickly and that is the problem.

‘Health boards have tried to find creative ways to find a solution and we have actively helped them to do that but they are constrained by the rules.

‘We are actively negotiating to change that in these emergency situations and the Scottish government has also recognised the rule book doesn’t match the reality.

‘We are working to get an answer on that as soon as possible as a solution is needed now.’

The national guidance on how health boards should manage circumstances when practices choose to hand back a contract will cover all aspects of that process, not just premises, Dr McDevitt said.

In a post-conference update to LMCs, the GPC said the national guidance ‘will ensure a more consistent approach across Scotland, protect general practice from the “last person standing” scenario, and allow NHS Boards to more quickly respond to these situations’.

Dr McDevitt added this was a ‘short-term solution’ and that the wider issues underpinning the difficulties practices were finding themselves in would be addressed as part of the contract negotiations due to conclude later this year.