The General Practitioners Committee states that the new Scottish GP contract, which will be phased in over the next two years, will see the end of the 10-minute GP consultation standard.
Scottish GPC chair Dr Alan McDevitt suggested that having mandatory limits for appointments is unhelpful for general practice, and flexibility is essential in order for GPs to meet demand.
McDevitt indicates that guidelines to be introduced in the new contract will enable other members of primary care to take on greater responsibility.
This will thus make longer appointments feasible, providing doctors with the flexibility to expand appointment times when required.
The new contract, which will begin to be phased in from April, will also see significant alteration to the overarching role of the GP.
Doctors will lead wider teams with the intention of improving patient outcomes, while undifferentiated presentations and complex care will become more prominent.
“I haven’t had a 10-minute appointment system for ages, but if you were to say everyone has 20-minute appointments you would need twice as many appointments. You can’t solve this contractually but by focusing on patients who need the GP most that’s how we expand appointment time. The only way we can achieve that is to stop doing other things we don’t need to do,” McDevitt commented.
While there have been concerns that longer appointment slots could lengthen the working day for GPs, the GPC has worked hard on putting a plan in place to avoid this.
Nonetheless, there is sure to be concerns among GPs that they will be asked to work longer hours; effectively harder for the same level of pay.
But the Scottish government has pledged an additional £500 million for primary care by the end of the decade, with the intention of providing more support for doctors.
The government has also indicated that GPs will stop providing some services that are proffered currently under the terms of the new contracts, with childhood and travel vaccinations particularly being phased out.
McDevitt indicated that the excessive workload of doctors must be addressed sooner rather than later.
“We have said that we are seeking to review the services that GPs provide and we are exploring how far we can go with that. We can probably only take modest amount in next year but we are expecting a timeline in 2017 on how that will go.”
But the chair of the Scottish General Practitioners Committee also indicated the importance of additional funding.
“We’re hoping to achieve quite a lot in 2017 but we can only go as fast as the funding changes going in.”