Longer appointments under new Scottish GP deal

GPs will be able to offer longer appointments under a major shake-up of primary care. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

GPs will be able to offer longer appointments under a major shake-up of primary care. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

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GPs will be able to offer longer appointments under a major shake-up of primary care where patients will be treated by a team of health professionals.

Ministers have signed an agreement with the British Medical Association (BMA) to make GPs the leaders of a team of nurses, physiotherapists and others health professionals.

Routine jabs for children and regular checks for diabetes patients could be done by nurses under the new deal, which was sent to GPs yesterday.

Receptionists could act as a gateway, referring patients to a physiotherapist or a pharmacist for treatment.

Health Secretary Shona Robison said the move was a “win-win” for both patients and doctors, as it could ease waits and solve recruitment issues by making Scotland an attractive place to be a GP.

Reports of staff shortages and crippling workloads have made it difficult to recruit staff, with an anticipated shortfall of nearly 900 GPs by 2020.

Dr Alan McDevitt, chair of the BMA’s Scottish GP committee, said GPs could offer longer consultations as their workload will have eased.

He said: “It will be for the GP and the patients to decide how long they spend on problems. That can’t happen just now when I am on a schedule of appointments every 10 minutes and there’s no space in the day.

“If we create space then that allows that time to occur.”

Doctors’ leaders plan to use £500 million announced by Nicola Sturgeon last month to increase the number of pharmacists and physiotherapists working in practices.

Dr McDevitt, a GP in Clydebank, said it was about “reinforcing” the role of the GP by removing bureaucracy.

He added: “We want to pay GPs to be GPs. There’s not enough time in the world, so lets have me doing what I should be doing, which is being a GP.”

Campaigners welcomed the prospect of longer appointments, citing the current system as unfair on patients.

Margaret Watt, chair of the Scotland Patient’s Association, said: “This has been a long time coming and I think it is a great move. Patients feel shortchanged by 10-minute appointments so they will be over the moon about it.”

The agreement will be used to re-negotiate the GP contract next year.

Shona Robison said the agreement was an important milestone for general practice.

She added: “It will enable GPs to have a more fulfilling job and it will be better for patients as it will improve access to the right health professional more quickly. It will be a win-win situation for the profession but also for patients.”

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