Scottish health and well-being secretary Alex Neil has invited GPs for talks following the breakdown of UK negotiations on the GP contract.
Mr Neil said the BMA and the Scottish government wanted the same thing — ‘a well functioning health service that met the needs of Scottish patients’, and that any agreement would take account of GP workload concerns.
Following the breakdown of talks between the BMA GPs committee and NHS Employers in England, BMA Scottish GPs committee chair Alan McDevitt has written to GPs in Scotland to update them on the situation north of the border.
His letter says the Scottish government has communicated with him ‘in more positive terms’, recognising that negotiations in London had not met the needs or expectations of either side.
It adds: ‘The Scottish government is proposing a further round of discussions with [the] SGPC, to try — within the context of a UK GMS [general medical services] contract — to reach a negotiated GMS agreement in Scotland for 2013/14.’
Dr McDevitt says he believes that reaching a negotiated settlement will be ‘a significant challenge’, but adds: ‘We will, in the face of a probable imposition to the GMS contract in England, continue discussions with the Scottish government to explore whether a negotiated agreement can be reached on GMS contract changes for Scotland for 2013/2014.’
He says: ‘The SGPC negotiating team will, of course, continue to press for contractual changes which GPs believe are needed to support Scottish general practices in continuing to provide high-quality care to their patients.’
Mr Neil said: ‘We agree with the BMA that the market-driven model being put in place in England represents a real threat to the NHS and to GPs’ ability to treat patients effectively, but Scottish patients shouldn’t suffer because of this.
‘That’s why we want to take a different approach in Scotland, and want to work closely with the BMA to agree a Scottish arrangement that takes account of workloads and meets the needs of Scottish patients.’
The Scottish government, which is working towards a referendum on Scottish independence in 2014, has previously said it wants to ‘repatriate’ parts of the GMS contract to Scotland, particularly in light of the health reforms in England.
The SGPC has rejected calls for a Scotland-only contract, but would be willing to discuss more ‘tartanisation’ within the context of a UK GMS contract.