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New contract to save the independent contractor model, says GPC leader

The new contract coming in next year is the last chance to save the independent contractor model in Scotland, the chair of the Scottish GPC has said.

Speaking at Pulse Live in Edinburgh, Dr Alan McDevitt said that it was ‘his job’ to ‘deliver the attractive independent contractor model’ via the ongoing negotiations with the Government, adding that otherwise the model ‘will be salaried’.

Last year, Dr McDevitt indicated that the new Scottish GP model would mean partners moving ‘as close to salaried’ as possible, including not employing practice staff. But the pace of change has slowed after consultation with the profession found that 85% of GPs wish to keep the independent contractor model.

Dr McDevitt said the latest plan is for GP partners to continue to run practices and employ staff, but in a ‘de-risked’ capacity.

He said he wanted to ‘change the mood music’ in general practice: ‘It’s not going to go “big bang” in April 2017 – the world is not going to change overnight towards these visionary changes.

‘You will still continue to employ staff, but we no longer seek to broadly expand that. I know you need staff and I need to find out a way of getting you those staff with the least amount of risk and the greatest amount of control over what they do.’

But he added that for struggling practices, handing over control to local health boards and becoming salaried remained the ‘default option’.

He said: ‘People have told us they want independent contractor status. There are a lot of arguments that the independent contractor model is good for the NHS, [but] just remember you can always be salaried if you want. It will remain the default option and some of you are choosing that when your practices are unsustainable.

Meanwhile, Dr McDevitt revealed that the parties are discussiung changes to the allocation formula aimed at making practice pay ‘more stable’.

He said: ‘We’re looking into new ways of paying you, but we haven’t got that worked out yet… What we mainly want is for you to have stability of income, so that you can know what your pay will be going forward… But I expect the allocation formula will play a lesser role than before.

Speaking shortly after the SNP was re-elected to the Scottish Parliament earlier this month, Dr McDevitt said he was looking forward to the coming budget debate ‘towards the end of this year’, which he said would determine ’what is the degree and pace of change’.

He added: ‘If the Scottish Government does not get it right this time, then we are done for.’

The Scottish GPC called for a ‘commitment to substantial new primary care funding and staff’ earlier this year despite a £20m uplift from April.