New GP contract will bring significant change, warns island GP

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Seil and Easdale islanders have been warned the new GP contract will bring ‘significant change’.

More than 140 people turned out to Tuesday’s community council meeting to hear how proposed changes in the contract could dismantle their GP service by centralising primary care – possibly in Oban.

Those there were urged to keep lobbying ‘the powers that be’, including MSPs, Cabinet Secretary for Health Shona Robison and the British Medical Association, to make sure when the contract fully comes into effect in three years, it is ‘rural-proofed’.

Seil GP Dr Miranda Barkham told the meeting although the first stage of the new contract starts on April 1 there was ‘no imminent threat’ to their local surgeries but warned after three years other stages of the proposals would lead to significant change.

Dr Barkham got a round of applause from supporters after saying the islanders’ doctors gave good quality care now and wanted to maintain it.

She said the new contract’s goals were ‘laudable’, seeking to decrease pressure on GP services by taking away jobs that could be done by others, better benefiting city GPs – but not them.

‘We don’t necessarily wish to shed the work that can be done by others because we aim to provide a holistic service,’ she said.

Dr Barkham added because Easdale Medical Practice  was small it was more likely patients would have to travel greater distances to get those services,  such as blood tests, and  ‘logically’ such a treatment centre would be in Oban.

She was also concerned about a funding formula which would depend on the number of patients seen by GPs daily.

‘We don’t yet know how these changes will pan out. The proposed changes may benefit city GPs and their patients but the Rural GPs Association has expressed significant concern about the unintended effect on them and their patients.

‘We feel common sense rules up here. We do our best to avoid multi-layer care by different staff to the same patient and that works for our area. We know all our patients well and are well-placed to know when there’s a deterioration. We feel a locally- based service is the best way to serve this area. We want to safeguard rural primary care.

‘We feel concerns expressed by rural GPs have not yet been adequately addressed, although huge efforts have been put in by public and patients groups and I think that’s beginning to have some effect. We are providing a service we are proud of. We wouldn’t like the contract to change that,’ she said.

One man at the meeting asked if jobs could be lost at the surgery because of the new contract. Dr Barkham replied: ‘If the practice was no longer open or viable then it could mean jobs are lost.’

Community councillor Julie Ferris said: ‘We would be appalled to lose our practice. The message is keep writing to the powers that be, keep going.’

Sixty five people attended Kilninver and Kilmelford Community Council’s last meeting to hear about the implications the new GP contract could have for them.