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Rural GPs ‘unanimously’ oppose new Scottish GP contract

The Rural GP Association of Scotland (RGPAS) has taken a ‘unanimous view’ against the new Scottish contract, the association’s chair has said. 

Dr David Hogg tweeted that the contract had had ‘lots of opportunities missed’, adding that RGPAS members ‘are concerned’ that rural issues are not being addressed. 

He told Pulse that ‘it’s a unanimous view at the moment’ and depends on how much the association is ‘able to engage with the Scottish GPC’ before the profession votes on the contract. 

He said: ‘We’re keen to stress that it’s a unanimous view at the moment, hence why we’re keen to use the opportunity we have before the polling day to work with the SGPC on that.

‘It’s not an absolute position as yet, depends how much we’re able to engage with SGPC over the next fortnight.’

Dr Hogg added that the new contract ‘has fallen short of reassuring rural GPs that their funding is safe and that payment for the job will reflect the additional services they do’.

The contract proposes to have GPs working as the head of a multi-disciplinary team to work with GP practices to provide direct access to services for patients.

But Dr Hogg said this part of the contract ‘will increase the expectation’ that general practice can provide additional services, adding ‘if that is not there people are naturally going to come back to the GP’.

He said: ‘We want to make very clear that involving our colleagues, including pharmacists and physiotherapists in the wider healthcare team makes total sense, there is no question about that but in smaller practices the staff are simply not there or there has been a very haphazard approach…

‘The real damage the contract could do is raise expectations again.’

Despite this, he said RGPAS is not at the stage yet of voting against the contract on 1 December.

He said: ‘We’re not advising our members to vote no at the moment. We are hoping to continue the dialogue we’ve had with SGPC to help our own clarity on what they mean by certain aspirations and we’re hoping to get more commitment on some of those kind of aspects before the profession goes to polling.’

Other rural GPs have also expressed their disappointment with the new contract.

Dr Iain Kennedy, vice-chair of Highland LMC, said rural GPs are ‘not confident the rural package is going to appear and that it is going to be robust and protect us from health board cuts’. 

He added: ‘The loss of autonomy is also a major concern as at the moment we have the ability to directly employ clinical staff and some influence on the design and delivery of services.’

It comes as Dr Miles Mack, who stepped down as RCGP Scotland chair earlier this month, warned that GPs will lose their autonomy to employ and manage their practice team under the new GP contract.