The first year since the introduction of the controversial new Scottish GP contract has resulted in some progress – but there is still much to do, a senior GP says today.
Marking the first anniversary of the start of the contract, Dr Andrew Buist, chair of the British Medical Association’s Scottish GP committee, called for the pace of change to increase over the next two years and urged the Scottish Government and health boards to meet their commitments in full.
The contract was strongly backed by GPs in Scotland – but raised concerns that some rural and inner city practices would lose resources.
Dr Buist said: “Over the last 12 months, I have seen a mixed picture across Scotland and varied progress … An example of the progress we have made is the Scottish Government funded practice sustainability loans scheme, which will offer eligible practices an interest-free loan to reduce the risks of premises ownership. Some 172 applications have been approved already.
“On top of that, this month a new minimum earnings guarantee is due to begin, ensuring no full-time GP earns below £70,000.”
He stressed that the newly introduced GP contract is not just about money – it is about making the work of a GP attractive to potential recruits and ensuring recruitment and retention problems are alleviated.
“We still have two years to deliver on this phase of the contract,” he continued.
“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.”
The first Scotland-only GP contract was an historic agreement between BMA Scotland and the Scottish Government in 2018.
It aims to set out a distinctive new direction for general practice in Scotland, with objectives including improving recruitment and retention of GPs, reducing workload and bureaucracy, and creating a new kind of primary care based on multi-disciplinary teams with the GP at the centre as an expert medical generalist.
The practice sustainability loan scheme is a Scottish Government funded £50 million scheme, which is being rolled out over three years.
Dr Chris Black, a GP from Ayrshire and Arran Local Medical Committee, said the contract has already made a difference, with almost every practice in Ayrshire and Arran having, or soon about to have, access to a pharmacist.
“This has had a huge impact on GP workload for the better. We’re also seeing an improved relationship with our primary care, health board and health and social care partnership colleagues as a result of the contract,” he said.