A members’ survey carried out by the Rural GP Association of Scotland (RGPAS) has revealed a considerable level of concern across rural GPs in Scotland about the new GP contract proposals. Of 115 members, 74 have responded (65% response rate).
One reason for conducting this survey, is the refusal to publish the geographical breakdown of the results of the national poll. We understand that this may be due to a technicality of the voting process and therefore hope that this is useful information for SGPC and Scottish Government to view the perspectives of rural GPs in Scotland about the new contract.
In November last year, RGPAS published a constructive appraisal of the proposed new GP contract. Since then we have attempted to engage with SGPC and Scottish Government to understand how appropriate steps can be taken to ensure that the very acute needs of Scottish rural general practice will be adequately addressed. RGPAS wrote a letter to the Cabinet Secretary for Health, Shona Robison, and a phone call took place on Wednesday 13th December to discuss our concerns in more detail. A formal response to this letter was promised, but as yet we have not received this. Specific concerns highlighted at this time included whether the GP contract proposals were compatible with the Scottish Government’s ‘Realistic Medicine’ strategy, and the effects of the proposed Workload Allocation Formula (WAF) in delivering much-needed additional resource only to urban-based practices. Notably, these specific concerns about the WAF are echoed by our ‘Deep End’ colleagues – GPs who work in some of the most deprived communities in Scotland.
In the last few days, further concerns have been raised by Prof Phil Wilson about the methodology behind the proposed new Workload Allocation Formula as well as the process of polling GPs across Scotland – from which the SGPC will decide whether to go ahead with the proposed ‘Phase One’ of the proposals. [STOP PRESS: A further letter from Prof Wilson was sent on 8th January with additional concerns about the allocation formula].
RGPAS remains ready to work with SGPC and the Scottish Government to address the issues being raised by our members, whether the new contract goes ahead or not. The survey results below indicate the strength of feeling, but moreso the passion that rural GPs – like many GPs across Scotland – have for advocating for their communities, and delivering quality primary care in some particularly challenging circumstances.
RGPAS believes these concerns need to be addressed with the utmost urgency, and not wait until or whether Phase Two of the proposed contract is enabled – if Phase Two happens, we understand that it won’t be for another 2-5 years. We do understand the plans to form a ‘Short Life Working Group’ for rural practice. However, the time for action is now, not least to address the constructive concerns raised already in this process about the proposals of Phase One.
This is critical for the future of Scottish rural primary care, and the RGPAS committee and membership is ready now to see more effective representation of the health needs of Scotland’s rural communities than what has been proposed.
Some of the comments at the end of the survey are particularly illuminating…