GP representatives have given overwhelming backing for the first Scotland-only GP contract ahead of a national poll on whether it should be implemented.
At a special conference of Scottish local medical committees in Clydebank, delegates said the contract proposals address sustainability of funding, reduces risk, improves the attractiveness of general practice, and reduces workload.
Most dramatically, almost nine in 10 (85 per cent) delegates agreed or strongly agreed that the proposed contract would reduce workload while 84 per cent said that it would improve funding sustainability.
Scottish GPs committee chair Alan McDevitt said: ‘I am delighted that LMC representatives have such confidence in the proposed contract. We need to adopt new ways of working and this contract sets us in a new direction. I truly believe that this contract will help deliver a sustainable future for general practice in Scotland.’
Earlier in the day, Scottish health secretary Shona Robison announced a large expansion in the number of GPs.
Ms Robison said the Scottish Government would aim to increase numbers of GPs by at least 800 over ten years; currently there are around 4,900 GPs in Scotland.
She pledged £100m to support implementation of the proposed contract, and specific funding to support recruitment and retention in 2018-19, particularly in rural areas, including golden hello payments of £10,000 to GPs taking up their first role in a rural practice and relocation payments of £5,000.
Ms Robison said: ‘The new GP contract, a historic joint agreement between the Scottish Government and the BMA, will ensure that GPs are able to spend more time with patients and less time on bureaucracy. If accepted, it will help cut doctors’ overall workload and make general practice an even more attractive career prospect.’
Dr McDevitt welcomed the health secretary’s comments. ‘Working towards delivering 800 additional GPs for Scotland is a sensible and realistic target for the years ahead and I look forward to the coming primary care workforce plan that will show how this is to be achieved.
‘Together with the wider measures in the proposed contract to make general practice a more attractive career, I believe that this can have a significant impact on improving GP recruitment and retention.’
Earlier, Dr McDevitt urged GPs to back the proposed new contract, saying that it lays the groundwork for a sustainable future for general practice.
‘I am acutely aware of the challenges you have faced, of the workload pressures, the burnout and the stress, and the increasing financial pressures,’ he said.
‘I am constantly impressed at the ability of GPs to rise to these challenges and ensure that patients receive the care that they need.
‘But there is no doubt that general practice must adapt. We have to find new ways of working and I believe that this contract sets us in a new direction, whilst retaining the key characteristics that we value, such as the independent contractor status and autonomy to deliver services which are appropriate for our communities.’
Dr McDevitt said the contract would come with much needed additional resources. ‘It will give us more time with our patients and will make sure that they have access to a wide range of services more quickly and more locally.
‘I am confident that this contract will deliver a brighter and more sustainable future for GPs and for patients.’
SGPC representatives have already taken roadshows to each of Scotland’s health board areas to talk to GPs about the proposed contract, and GPs will also be able to make their views known via a poll which will open on 7 December.
Dr McDevitt added: ‘The poll of the profession opens next Thursday and I hope that all GPs and GP trainees in Scotland will register to take part and make their views known.’
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