GP leaders have begun talks with Scottish health secretary Nicola Sturgeon on a ‘tartanisation' of the GP contract north of the border, which would see significant changes in the way Scottish GPs are paid but stop short of wholesale renegotiation of the UK-wide deal.
Last December the Scottish Government tabled plans to negotiate around three quarters of the total GMS contract separately in Scotland, in a move which the GPC had warned could lead to the break-up of the UK-wide GMS contract.
Talks are now underway on possible changes, with the Scottish Government insisting it was still looking at roughly three quarters of the contract.
But at the Scottish LMCs conference in Glasgow last week, Ms Sturgeon said she now planned to work towards a ‘more Scottish-focussed contract'.
LMC leaders voted in favour of the move, while GPC negotiators said they would be willing to talk about adjustments to contractual requirements and the global sum.
In her keynote speech to LMC representatives, 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 reassure you. I am talking about a more Scottish-focussed contract, not a major renegotiation of GMS.'
Ms Sturgeon said she envisaged a contract that focussed more on ‘public health priorities'.
She said: ‘Are there aspects of the GP contract that would be better in core funding, allowing you flexibility?'
GPC Scotland chair Dr Dean Marshall said negotiators were ‘happy to discuss moving stuff into the global sum', but warned this would also require funding to moved into correction factor. ‘Otherwise MPIG practices lose out,' he said.
He added: ‘Re-negotiating the contract is never the answer. To renegotiate in the current financial climate would be suicidal.'
Dr Andrew Townsley, a member of Glasgow LMC who proposed the motion supporting 'the tartanisation of a UK contract rather than a wholly Scottish GP contract', agreed that economic concerns were a factor: 'Now isn't the time to renegotiate the contract. We'll never get back to 2004 - we'd not be able to negotiate a contract like that now.'
GPC negotiator Dr Chaand Nagpaul, a GP in Stanmore, North West London, who attended the conference along with the rest of the UK negotiating team, said: ‘We need to separate the divergence in health policy from the core GP contract. What the minister called for is achievable within the current contractual framework.'