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Scottish contract on a knife edge as GPs split 50:50 on new direction

GPs in Scotland are undecided about which way they will vote on the new contract, a Pulse survey has revealed.

The survey of more than 200 respondents over the past two weeks has found a split in the vote, with 33% of GPs intending to vote for the contract, compared with 32% against, with the remaining undecided. 

However, there has been an increase in GPs saying they will vote in favour of the new contract over the past few days after the BMA has been conducting roadshows on the implications.

Local GP leaders are meeting tomorrow (Friday 1 December) in Glasgow to discuss the contract, and if – as expected – they support the deal, it will be put out to vote for all GPs in Scotland afterwards.

But the Rural GP Association yesterday warned that the contract will lead to rural general practice in Scotland ‘facing extinction’, as their guaranteed funding will decrease.

The contract, announced this month, will see GP partners guaranteed a minimum annual salary of £80,000, a change in their role so they will lead multidisciplinary teams and a move towards the NHS taking over all GP premises.

Pulse’s survey revealed that attitudes seem to be shifting in favour of the contract ahead of the vote. In the first week, 26% said they were in favour of the contract, compared with 36% against; in the second week, 37% were in favour, compared with 24% against.

The chair of the BMA’s Scottish GP Committee, Dr Alan McDevitt, has said that this contract ‘is our best chance to save general practice’.

He said: ‘We talk about having GPs being GPs. You don’t have to be an entrepreneur to work in general practice. We want GPs to be clinicians most of the time.’

He added: ’I truly believe that this contract will deliver a better future for GPs in Scotland and their patients. It will allow GPs to continue to provide innovative local services tailored to the needs of their communities, whilst reducing business risk and workload pressures.’

Dr Chris Black, joint secretary of Ayrshire and Arran LMC, also gave his support to the contract, telling Pulse: ‘It’s going to be vital [to attract GPs]. When you speak to younger GP colleagues, they are apprehensive about partnerships and they like the idea of this model, which offers them more protection.’

However, there has been dissent, most notably from the immediate former chair of RCGP Scotland, Dr Miles Mack, who warned: ‘The autonomy GPs have to employ and manage their team appears will be lost in the new GP contract.

‘We will be giving this up with no assurance on workload control and T&Cs far short of those enjoyed by Consultants. Seems odd…’

And just yesterday, the Rural GP association warned that the contract will ‘give a significant boost to urban primary care at the expense of rural services’.

Its statement added: ‘The new funding formula will see cuts to rural NHS primary care services and around 90% of practices in the North of Scotland will see their allocated funding reduced by up to two-thirds. Although there is a promise of short-term funding protection in the contract, the detail of this has not been provided, and this uncertainty looks set to destabilize rural healthcare across Scotland.’

The Pulse survey also revealed that respondents were more positive about the effect of the contract on workload, rather than pay. Around 43% said it would have a positive effect on workload, with 22% saying it will have a negative effect. But only 19% said it would have a positive effect on pay, compared with 33% who said it would have a negative effect.

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Survey results in full

Will you be voting for or against the contract when it goes out for ballot?

For: 33%

Against: 32%

Undecided: 35%

Has the BMA done a good job in negotiating this contract?

Yes: 33%

No: 39%

Don’t know: 28%

Click here to read the full results