SNP guarantees protection of junior doctors’ pay

Health Secretary Shona Robison has pledged a "cast-iron" guarantee. Picture: John Devlin
Health Secretary Shona Robison has pledged a "cast-iron" guarantee. Picture: John Devlin
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HEALTH secretary Shona Robison has offered a “cast iron” guarantee not to cut junior doctors’ pay in Scotland and abolished a controversial payment contract as part of bold plans to tackle Scotland’s spiralling GP crisis.

In a speech to the Royal College of GPs conference in Glasgow today, Ms Robison announced plans to reduce the “tick box culture” by dismantling the time-consuming Quality Outcomes Framework (QOF), where surgeries are required to tick off things they have done for patients in exchange for payment.

Doctors leaders were swift to welcome the move after hitting out at the Scottish Government earlier this week for failing provide evidence of a coherent plan for the future of general practice.

Ms Robison said: “QOF has delivered many innovations but it’s time is past.

“Scotland’s GPs need a new and different future, starting from 2016.”

The system, which was introduced in 2004, has been criticised by doctors leaders for increasing paperwork and taking time away from patients.

Dr Alan McDevitt, chair of the British Medical Association’s Scottish GP committee, hailed the move as a “significant step” towards helping to stabilise the profession.

He said: “This bold move by the Cabinet Secretary is part of the re-invigoration of General Practice in Scotland.

“It will have a positive effect on practices, by reducing workload and bureaucracy, allowing GPs to focus on the complex care needs of their patients.”

Ms Robison also told the audience of more than 2,000 family doctors that she was “appalled” by plans from UK Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to reduce pay for junior doctors and vowed to resist such a move in Scotland.

The news has been causing growing alarm in England due to fears it will only add to considerable workforce issues in the profession.

Ms Robison said: “Let’s be clear, this isn’t just about pay. It’s about longer working hours and the impact on patient safety. That is our concern about these proposals. Jeremy Hunt must think again.

“We need to work to attract more trainees into the profession.”

Experts at RCGP Scotland predicted a shortfall of more than 900 family doctors by 2020 earlier this year amid claims that unmanageable workloads were impacting on patient care and putting off trainees from joining the profession.

Increasing the number of medical students entering the profession was a key priority and the health secretary pledged to work closely with Scottish medical schools to reach this goal.

A move towards teams working in clusters is expected to be included in the new Scottish GPs contract being drawn up for 2017.

Ms Robison said: “I want to move towards a system of values driven governance, that reflects and is sensitive to the different needs of the different communities that you serve, allowing the best of use of expertise to be shared across clusters of practices.”

General practice was described as the “Obi Wan Kenobi of our NHS - our only hope” by RCGP chair Professor Maureen Baker, in reference to a famous quote from Star Wars.

The Wishaw-born doctor called for a real deal for general practice, branding UK Government plans for 7-day working as “living in cloud cuckoo land”.