GPs from across Scotland will meet in Clydebank this week for the annual Scottish LMC Conference.
This conference is not a ‘talking shop’ but a forum that has influenced government and NHS managers. GPs’ criticism of NHS24, reported regularly in the pages of Pulse, has placed pressure on the Board and Government to take action to improve the service.
Motions criticising Community Health Partnerships, for instance, led to a wholescale review of these organisations.
In the coming months, GPs along with doctors across the UK, will be balloted on whether or not they are prepared to take industrial action to show the strength of their feelings against the proposed changes to the NHS pension.
At the same time, the Scottish Government is considering how best to integrate health and social care, and GPs will have a vital role to play when it comes to implementing its proposals.
We also want to ask again, should there be a Scottish GP contract? The Scottish Government is considering introducing some flexibility for the contract in Scotland and we are ready to refresh what has become a long-standing issue for the nation’s GPs.
There are more topics that are debated year after year, such as NHS24, GP premises, the primary health care team and QOF. This conference will consider the need to increase remuneration for GPs who work in the out of hours service and will hear calls for an end to unrealistic targets given to patients who call NHS24.
The need for a national premises strategy will be debated, and representatives will be asked for their opinion on the loss of ring-fenced primary care premises funding. Should community staff and health visitors remain practice attached and should targets be evidence based or politically fashionable?
But conference doesn’t just debate issues affecting GPs. Obesity, vitamin D deficiency and alcohol abuse all take their toll on our patients – we see daily their affects and the strains they are putting on our NHS. This year’s conference will debate the reintroduction of a minimum price for alcohol, how the obesity epidemic can be tackled and consider what is the solution to vitamin D deficiencies?
Our patients trust us to do what is right for them. We know which policies work best and we know which can create barriers to the best care. The SLMC conference gives GPs the opportunity to form policy and it is essential that we voice our opinions so that the SGPC continues to represent the views of its members.
Dr Bob Mack is the chairman of the Scottish Local Medical Committees Conference 2012, and a GP at NHS Dumfries & Galloway.