Addressing the conference of Scottish local medical committees, BMA Scotland GPs committee chair Andrew Buist (pictured) said major challenges remained, particularly around workload and workforce.
COVID-19 had set back implementation of the Scotland-only contract – now in its fourth year – but that the pandemic had also served to highlight existing problems besetting the Scottish health and care system, Dr Buist said.
Addressing the conference, which was held virtually, he warned: ‘It is going to take many years for the NHS to recover from the pandemic. Indeed, I am not convinced we will ever get back to where we were.’
Dr Buist pointed to workforce supply, which he said was a problem across primary care. ‘We need the physiotherapists, the pharmacists, the nurses who are all key parts of the multidisciplinary teams we need in place if we are truly to deliver the vision the contract sets out.
'The pandemic has only underlined the importance of all professionals working closely to deliver the right care to patients from the right person – so we need proper strategic planning and a redoubled focus on delivering these staff to support practices across the country, and we need that urgently.’
He also deplored the anti-GP narrative in some parts of the media, saying false claims general practice was ‘closed’ had gathered momentum.
‘The truth was so different, as we knew,’ he said. ‘Yes, we changed our access model at the beginning of the pandemic to increase remote consulting, in fact we were asked to do so, but they hardly needed to ask, it was the right thing to do to reduce the spread of infection. And of course, we continued to see patients in-person when it was clinically appropriate to do so.’
Dr Buist called for an open and honest conversation to build a realistic and achievable vision for health and social care, and for an expert group to be convened to work towards it.
But he warned: ‘GPs are a resilient group, but we are tired. The demands we are facing are huge and often beyond our capacity – I fear for the well-being of individuals trying to do their best and it not being enough. The Government and the public must appreciate the GP service or they won’t know what they had until it’s gone – the independent contractor model has served the country well since the beginning of this NHS, but there are limits to which GPs can be exposed.’
The conference also heard from Scottish health secretary Humza Yousaf, who thanked GPs for their efforts in the pandemic.
‘I don’t need to tell you how challenging the last 20 months have been, and how challenging the circumstances are today,’ he said. ‘Your clinical expertise and ability to work in different ways was nothing short of heroic.’