The Scottish LMCs conference has voted for the first time in favour of an entirely separate Scottish GP contract, in a tight vote that could have serious ramifications for the future of contract negotiations.
Voting at the conference in Clydebank outside of Glasgow today, Scottish GPs upheld a motion from Glasgow LMC recommending a full split, rather than the ‘tartanisation’ of recent years, by a small majority despite a plea to reject the motion from a UK GPC negotiator.
The motion said: ‘That this conference, given the increasing divide between GMS in England and Scotland, calls on SGPC to move towards a Scottish GP contract.’
The vote could prove the final nail in the coffin for a UK-wide GP contract, after Scotland inched further and further from the national contract deals in recent years, also followed by Wales and Northern Ireland in the last two years.
Last year, Scottish GPC chair Dr Alan McDevitt argued that the nationwide approach ‘maintains UK solidarity of the profession’ but this year he called on delegates to support the motion.
However, this year he claimed it would give Scottish GPC the room to manoeuvre.
He said: ‘I will continue to work on your behalf on a UK level with my fellow UK negotiators to defend general practice in all the four nations. But I have to talk to the Scottish Government about the contract we work under – this motion allows room for manoeuvre and is in keeping with the policy and real politik of where we are at. So, in that sense, I would ask you to accept it. It doesn’t say we have to have a separate Scottish contract but moving towards a Scottish contract.’
But Dr Dean Marshall, the former chair of the Scottish GPC and a UK negotiator now, urged delegates to vote down the motion.
He said: ‘We need to think of the longer term – it’s fine just now when everything is going well and isn’t it funny we’ve been offered lots of money just before a referendum.
I’ve been a negotiator for a few years now – I’ve no doubt we would not be in the position we’re in now if we hadn’t been tied to England. We’d have been tied to out of hours now, I’ve no doubt abou that – what is it we think is going to be better. I think we need to think about the longer term, there are huge risks in this. We need to be very careful.’
The Scottish health minister, Alex Neil, announced earlier that GPs will receive a 0.28% uplift to global sum funding, but could receive further increases due to an overall investment of an extra £6m into the GP contract.