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BMA SGPC insists GP contract is ‘flexible’

3 September 2012

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The UK contract is “sufficiently flexible” to accommodate Scottish differences, the chair of the British Medical Association’s Scottish GP Committee has claimed.

Dr Alan McDevitt has, however, acknowledged the need to discuss areas of the GP contractwhere it would be “appropriate” to include “greater Scottish flexibilities”.

His comments come as think tank Reform Scotland called for a separate General Medical Services (GMS) contract, under which GPs operate, for Scotland in its report Patients First: Improving access to GP practices.

“It makes little sense for health to be devolved to Holyrood, but the GMS contract negotiated on a UK basis when health policy in the different parts of the UK is diverging,” said Geoff Mawdsley, Director of Reform Scotland.

“This doesn’t mean that ultimately the deal agreed would be all that different and there would be nothing stopping those involved in the Scottish negotiations from simply mirroring the English deal. 

“However, importantly the final agreement for Scottish GPs would be made in Scotland reflecting Scottish circumstances and policies.

“It’s time Scotland negotiated its own GMS contract, negotiated with Scottish circumstances in mind and designed to meet the unique needs of Scottish patients. Patients must come first and this change will help that goal be achieved.”

Dr McDevitt there is “no point” reinventing the evidence base for clinical indicators in the quality framework and the focus on contractual issues could risk “overshadowing” other challenges such as: the call for more investment in the primary care workforce and GP premises.

“GPs and their primary care teams provide high quality and comprehensive services to their patients,” he said.

“They are at the heart of every community in Scotland.  I would prefer that debate centred on how we can meet the challenges ahead without losing what is so good about Scottish NHS General Practice.”

In the same report, Reform Scotland has also hit out at Scotland’s primary care “postcode lottery”.

The think-tank has made a series of suggestions to end the practice including: expanding the GP catchment areas should be expanded so that there are more GP surgeries from which patients can choose and allowing private sector companies to open GP practices.

Dr McDevitt said he “could not disagree more with the proposals”.