GP contract gets the thumbs-down from rural doctors

Practices in remote areas feel sidelined, says RGPAS chairman David Hogg
Practices in remote areas feel sidelined, says RGPAS chairman David Hogg
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Scotland’s rural doctors have voted overwhelmingly to reject the proposed new GP contract set to be rolled out later this year.

Figures obtained by Scotland on Sunday show that of the 74 out of 115 rural GPs who voted, 65 said no to the contract proposal.

A members’ survey carried out by the Rural GP Association of Scotland (RGPAS) reveals the considerable level of concern felt by doctors in remote areas of the country, with 66 out of 74 doctors saying they don’t feel they have been adequately represented in the contract negotiations.

The association has criticised the Scottish Government and the BMA for refusing to publish the geographical breakdown when the results of the national poll are announced next week.

The latest move is part of an ongoing row with rural GPs, who have been joined by colleagues from the Deep End practice in Govan, who care for some of the most socially deprived people in the country. They have also voiced concerns over the Workload Allocation Formula used to determine levels of funding.

Dr David Hogg, chairman of the RGPAS, said they were still waiting to hear back from the Scottish GP Committee (SGPC) about concerns they have raised.

He added: “There is significant concern from our members that rural practices have been sidelined from the attempts to improve future primary care in Scotland.

“There seems to be a disconnect between the strategic aspirations of the Scottish Government and the operational realities of delivering GP services, particularly to rural communities.

“We would have expected greater assurance and clarity on how this contract is going to be implemented in rural areas, and without this we have had to use our votes to indicate that more thought must be given to rural-proofing the proposals.”

The doctors from the Govan SHIP (social and health integrated partnership) say the new funding formula is heavily weighted in favour of practices which have a higher percentage of affluent elderly patients as opposed to younger deprived people with multiple health problems.

Chair of BMA Scotland’s GP Committee Dr Alan McDevitt said: “The proposed contract will ensure that every practice in Scotland has their finances protected, while providing more financial support to those practices with under-resourced higher workloads.

“The proposed contract will also mean that golden hellos in rural areas will be expanded and financial assistance for relocation costs will be put in place, helping rural GP recruitment.

“The process for the poll was agreed at the SGPC meeting in August at the same time as the committee approved the question that will be asked and where all of Scotland’s LMCs were represented. There was no request or discussion around a regional breakdown of the poll results at this meeting.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The new contract will ensure GPs can spend more time with patients and less time on bureaucracy. It will help cut doctors’ workload and make general practice an even more attractive career.”