Plans to free up GPs revealed in major health shake-up

Doctors have agreed on a shared vision for the future of general practice with the Scottish Government. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

Doctors have agreed on a shared vision for the future of general practice with the Scottish Government. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

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FAMILY doctors will be able to offer longer appointments under a major shake-up of primary care which will see more patients treated by other health professionals.

Ministers have signed a new deal with the British Medical Association (BMA) to allow GPs to share more work with a team of pharmacists, nurses and others.

Routine vaccinations for children and regular checks for diabetes patients could be carried out by practice nurses under the new plans, which were sent to all GPs yesterday.

Receptionists could also act as a gateway by directing patients to the treatment they need.

Health Secretary Shona Robison said the move was a “win-win” for patients and doctors as it would ease waits and recruitment issues by making Scotland an attractive place to be a GP.

It comes amid a nationwide GP recruitment crisis, which has forced nearly a third of Lothian’s 124 practices to restrict their patient lists to cope with rising levels of demand.

Announcing the news at a practice in Marchmont, Dr Alan McDevitt, chair of the BMA’s Scottish GP committee, said: “We want to pay GPs to be GPs.

“There’s not enough GP time in the world, so let’s have me doing what I should be doing.”

He said the move would free up GPs to be able to decide how long to spend on appointments, rather than sticking to ten-minute slots.

Politicians welcomed the move but raised concerns about whether it would affect the crisis facing Lothian surgeries.

Lothian Tory MSP Miles Briggs said: “It remains to be seen if the announcement will actually help address the GP crisis facing Lothian region.

“We have an increasing population but quite simply our GP services cannot keep up with the growing demand.

“Scottish ministers need to explain how this new agreement will actually deliver more GPs and allow residents to get appointments with them in Lothian.”

The agreement will be used as the basis for a re-negotiation of the GP contract, which is due to be finalised next year.

Ms Robison said the agreement was an important milestone for general practice.

She added: “It will enable GPs to have a more fulfilling job and it will be better for patients as it will improve access to the right health professional more quickly. It will be a win-win situation for the profession but also for patients.”

lizzy.buchan@edinburghnews.com