Argyll could lose GPs in new contract

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Next month’s new GP contract will lead to rural practices losing doctors and services, patients warned at a last-minute consultation, writes Sandy Neil.

‘There is huge concern about this,’ councillor Elaine Robertson said: ‘A lot of people do not understand what is happening.’

The new contract, which comes into force on Sunday April 1, was negotiated by the British Medical Association (BMA) and the Scottish Government, and agreed by the GP workforce. But patients and GPs argue it will disadvantage rural GP practices, Luing, Taynuilt and Kilmelford community councillors told a meeting in Oban’s Rockfield Centre on Tuesday, chaired by Carradale resident Karen Murphy.

‘Rural and remote communities will be left without safe medical care,’ Ms Murphy said. ‘They are talking about some services going elsewhere. At the heart of this is the workload allocation formula [determining how much money GP practices get]. Potentially GPs could go down from five days a week to two. There will be lots of recruitment and retention issues in rural areas.

‘Many GPs are leaving the BMA because they feel let down. Only 39 per cent voted, which is not an engaged workforce. This was clumsily managed. They did not tell us until the last possible minute.’

Retired Appin GP Dr Iain McNicol said: ‘It works fine for cities. It does not make sense in a small, rural area where there is one provider. Once this safety net period passes after three years, we will see a drift away of GPs, because practice incomes will plummet. We need something different for rural areas.’

The group urged Holyrood to look immediately at the issues raised by rural patients and GPs, give them a ‘meaningful’ place on a working group and adjust GPs’ workload allocation formula.

‘We are not saying do not do it, just make these adjustments,’ she said.

‘I want people to write to politicians and get in touch with us via our Rural and Remote Patients Group on Facebook. There are a lot of people out there interested. This is the NHS!’

Councillor Roddy McCuish added: ‘This will only change with political will.’

Views must be submitted via www.alliance-scotland.org.uk by Wednesday March 28.