An association of rural Scottish GPs has resigned from the Scottish Government’s rural contract development committee due to a lack of progress in addressing members’ concerns.
A survey by the Rural GP Association of Scotland (RGPAS) finds that 82.35 per cent of members now fear a worse outlook for healthcare in rural communities as a result of the new contract.
In a letter to the Scottish Government, sent earlier this month, RGPAS vice chair Dr David Hogg says that the promise of an effective short life working group to implement the contract in rural communities “seems to have fallen by the wayside”.
Among his concerns:
- Lack of contract implementation guidance for Integrated Joint Boards and Health & Social Care Partnerships
- Disparity of resource allocation via the new Scottish Workload Allocation Formula
- Lack of definition of the additional services that are already provided by rural GPs, but which are being threatened by the new contract.
He continues: “SLWG work is being distracted from urgent issues raised by implementation of the contract, to wider aspects of rural health in general that are outwith the remit and capacity of the SLWG.”
Fifty RGPAS members responded to the survey, generating the following responses:
- 49 members (97 per cent) could not support the effectiveness of the SLWG in addressing the concerns raised to date
- 16 members (31 per cent) were anticipating that services will need to be curtailed as a result of the current contract making for unsustainable conditions. Among the concerns raised: vaccination programmes (including to children), resilience of the MDT arrangements and loss of economies of generalist service provision.
Resigning his post, Dr Hogg concluded: “We need to see more tangible and convincing commitment to addressing the issues affecting our members and our rural communities in Scotland before we can consider the rural SLWG as an effective mechanism to address our members’ concerns.”
In response, the Scottish Government said: “We are studying the findings highlighted in the survey from RGPAS members… Members of the Rural Working Group have already engaged with rural GPs, many of whom retain a membership in the group, to ensure their views are heard – and this will continue.
“No GP practice in Scotland has lost funding due to the new contract and health board funding will be unaffected. The GP contract package provides specific support to rural GPs including an additional £850,000 this year for relocation and recruitment. The GP Practice income guarantee is a long-term feature of GP contracts and will be in place as long as it is needed. We are working with Integration Authorities to ensure primary care redesign is implemented safely and effectively. “