LMC leaders have overwhelmingly backed the call from Scottish health secretary Nicola Sturgeon for a ‘tartanisation’ of the GP contract north of the border – but rejected wholesale renegotiation of the UK-wide GMS deal.
The vote came after Ms Sturgeon set out plans for a more Scottish-focussed contract, but, in what GP leaders said was a clarification of her previous position, said she did not wish to re-negotiate the UK-wide contract.
It followed a warning from Scottish GPC chair Dr Dean Marshall that it would be ‘suicidal’ to break away and renegotiate a completely new deal in the current climate.
In a keynote speech to delegates, Ms Sturgeon said that whilst the current UK deal had served GPs ‘reasonably well over the years’, it was ‘time to think again about the scope of the contract.’
‘Our focus needs to be on local health service integration,’ she said. ‘Is it still right that the vast majority of the contract is the same from Bournemouth to Bishop Briggs? I know some are instinctively cautious, but I want to reasure you. I am talking about a more Scottish-focussed contract, not a major renegotiation of GMS. We and I suspect you have plenty of other challenges to meet first.’
Responding to a question from the floor, Ms Sturgeon said she envisaged a contract that focussed more on ‘public health priorities’.
She said: ‘We have issues that in terms of their scale and nature are certainly different to other parts of the UK. Are there different ways in which we could spend that resource to help you deliver better? Are there aspects of the GP contract that would be better in core funding, allowing you flexibility? These are questions I think it is legitimate to ask.
Ms Sturgeon said the divergence in health policy in England also made it important to talk about an adjusted contract north of the border.
‘Even if we didn’t think this was right for Scottish purposes, and I think it is, we’ve got other parts of the UK increasingly moving away from any notion of centralised pay and conditions,’ she said.
‘We’ve got a health service in England that is barely recognisable. We don’t want to get dragged along in the slipway of that, we need to be thinking now about what’s right in our interests. It’s not about ripping it up and starting again, but there are aspects we can do
better. That’s the discussion I want to have.’
Dr Marshall said Ms Sturgeon’s speech had clarified her previous position, when she was quoted in December 2011 as saying it was ‘not appropriate’ for Scottish GP’ contract to be negotiated on a UK-wide basis.
Dr Marshall said: ‘I have a lot of symptathy [with those that want to breakaway] but re-negotiating the contract is never the answer. To renegotiate in the current climate would be suicidal.’
Dr Andrew Townsley, of Glasgow LMC, proposed the motion that supported ‘the tartanisation of a UK contract rather than a wholly Scottish GP contract’.
He said: ‘Now isn’t the time to rengotiate the contract. We do very well working with the Government. We’ll never get back to 2004 – we’d not be able to negotiate a contract like that now. We should have a tartansised contract, not an independent one.’