Doctors urge Scottish Government to pick up pace on GP contract changes

The Scottish Government is being urged to speed up the pace in delivering its GP contract in a bid to overcome “deep-seated problems”.

Dr Andrew Buist of BMA Scotland said the contract, introduced in April 2018, was never going to solve the various challenges facing the profession in its first 12 months.

The new contract, backed with £100 million of Scottish Government funding in its first year, aimed to reduce the workload of family doctors and improve recruitment and retention rates.

With the deal having been in place for a year, Dr Buist, the chair of the BMA’s Scottish GP committee, said there now needed to be “an increased pace of change”.

And while the contract will see a minimum earnings guarantee come into place this month, ensuring no full-time GP earns less than £70,000 a year, Dr Buist stressed being a doctor was “about far more than money”.

He said: “Essentially we need to deliver this contract to make working as a GP attractive again and ensure that recruitment and retention problems will be alleviated.”

The GP contract was signed in January 2018, after a poll of doctors found 71.5% were in favour of it.

Its intention was to refocus the role of family doctors as “expert medical generalists”.

Ministers also pledged that the contract would see more nurses, physiotherapists and pharmacists working in general practices in a bid to free up more time for doctors to spend with patients.

Dr Buist said: “As we mark the one-year anniversary of the Scottish GP contract it is worth reflecting on the huge challenges that faced us when we signed the contract. Of course, these deep-seated problems – such as there simply not being enough GPs – were never going to be solved in a single year.

“Over the last 12 months, I have seen a mixed picture across Scotland and varied progress. There is much work to be done, so we need to see an increased pace of change.

“This needs the Scottish Government to continue to play its part to the full and deliver on our shared commitments – and to ensure health boards do the same.”

He continued: “We still have two years to deliver on this phase of the contract.

“I want to see the numbers of GPs start to rise again, with reduced vacancies, young doctors choosing to become GP partners in Scotland and older GPs who were thinking about retirement to decide they might keep going for a few more years.

“We have two more years of implementation, we all need to make the most of them.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We have a record number of GPs working in Scotland and are working to further increase the current numbers by at least 800 in the next 10 years.

“We are investing a further £7.5 million in Scotland in 2018/19 in GP recruitment and retention. By the end of this parliament we will have invested an additional £500 million per year in Primary Care – £250 million of which will be in direct support of general practice.”

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