GP contract progress report to be published by autumn
Sir Lewis Ritchie, head of a working group looking into the issue, has been giving evidence to MSPs.
A report evaluating progress made on the implementation of the new contract for GPs will be published by the autumn, MSPs have been told.
The contract, aimed at cutting the workload of family doctors, came into force in April last year after being accepted by the British Medical Association (BMA).
However, concerns have been raised around its introduction, particularly its impact on remote and rural practices.
A remote and rural working group was established by the Scottish Government to identify concerns and help address them.
👩⚕️ 👨⚕️ Scotland has the highest number of GPs per person of any country in the UK.— The SNP (@theSNP) May 8, 2019
Scotland has 76 GPs per 100,000 people, while the UK average is 60.
And the SNP @scotgov is planning to recruit an extra 800 GPs over the next decade. pic.twitter.com/TsXI5UNoJJ
Its chairman Sir Lewis Ritchie told Holyrood’s Public Petitions Committee that the group has travelled extensively across the country to speak with those working on the front-line.
He said: “I find that listening to colleagues and observing the care they deliver informs improvement, not necessarily by questionnaires and by emails, I prefer to go out there.
“And I heard consistent concerns about being undervalued, about the new contract not helping uncertainty in terms of future planning, and that is the feedback that I have been giving both to the Government, and we have been discussing in the short life working group.”
He used a medical analogy to describe the process: “First of all; what’s wrong here? And that takes a little time to assimilate. But then we need to get to the treatment phase.”
Sir Lewis also said he expects a joint statement from the Scottish Government and the BMA following a meeting on June 4 to give clarity about the next steps to be taken.
He said: “I have committed to write a report of progress in relation to implementation of the new GP contract by the autumn.
“I will hope to lay out problems, I will also hope to lay out examples of best practice.
“These are emerging. It’s early days, but they need to be assimilated and spread where good, and lessons learned where things have not worked, and also be appropriately communicated.
“The word communication is all-important in this matter.”
GPs across Scotland especially those serving rural communities have real concerns regarding the GP contract.— Miles Briggs MSP (@MilesBriggsMSP) April 24, 2019
Scottish GPs receive the lowest level of funding anywhere in the UK under the SNP.@ScotTories launched our plan to #SaveOurSurgeries in 2017.
Read the plan here: 👇 pic.twitter.com/YRa3mlV4AI
Committee convener Johann Lamont said the identification of problems with the contract could act as a good starting point for further evaluation.
The Labour MSP said: “It’s always encouraging if a doctor accepts there’s something wrong and is willing to make a diagnosis.
“I think that is perhaps an acknowledgement there’s something wrong here.”
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said: “What the working group can do is raise directly with me issues where they feel that the current Phase 1 of the contract requires modification and also where they will want to have a direct input into the negotiations around Phase 2 of the contract.
“This contract is a product of negotiation between Scottish Government and BMA, and so any modification to the Phase 1 of the contract, any changes that might be necessary at this point, have to be subject to negotiation between me and BMA.
“What the group can do is raise directly and evidence to me issues that are raised with them that they conclude should be looked at further by the Government and BMA.”
Dr Andrew Buist, of BMA Scotland, said: “There should be no illusions that persisting with the status quo that had led to the dire position of the profession was a viable option for anyone who wished to see a bright future for GPs and primary care in Scotland.
“We needed a fresh approach, and the BMA is clear the contract delivers on that.
“It is now crucial that all parties, including the Scottish Government and the short life working group that Sir Lewis Ritchie chairs, work together so that we can deliver on the commitments made, up the pace of change and transform general practice for the better, in remote and rural areas, and across Scotland as a whole.”