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General practice contract £160m over budget in Scotland

3 July 2008

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The new contract for GP practices in Scotland has cost £160m more than expected and should have been better planned, an official report has found.

The new General Medical Services (GMS) contract was introduced four years ago and has seen the average income of GPs rise by 38% from £65,180 in 2003/04 to £90,127 two years later.

In the first three years of the contract, GMS cost £160m more than was allocated to pay for them.

The Audit Scotland report also found there have been some benefits for patients in areas like monitoring and flexibility, but it will take time to improve patient care.

Auditor General for Scotland Robert Black said: “There are early signs that the contract has addressed GP concerns about pay and work-life balance, and has improved services for some patients.”

“However, there was insufficient planning for implementing this contract, partly due to a lack of available data on primary care and an underestimation of the costs of the contract.

The new contract was introduced amid concerns over unsustainable workloads and payments levels among GPs, prompting a quarter to consider career breaks before it was brought in.

It was aimed at making funding levels fairer and directing more funding to areas where the workload was highest, including deprived regions.

Last year there were 4,721 GPs and 1,030 practices in Scotland with 940 practices (88%) on the new contract.

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Audit Scotland