RCGP Conference 2015: Reflections on politicians and policy

Screen Shot 2015-10-01 at 10.41.07Euan Lawson is the Deputy Editor of the BJGP.

Today was the first day of the RCGP Annual Primary Care Conference and the sun was out in Glasgow.

Jeremy Hunt turned up for the last two years but we were informed by the President, Mike Pringle, that he had a genuine excuse for non-appearance this year. Two years ago Hunt spoke without notes and with an engagingly informal approach. He did the same last year and the audience weren’t quite so charmed and the cosy style felt a little forced. This year, he would have needed more than his warm fluffy personality to charm the audience given the seven day working proposals. Although not here in person, Hunt’s presence loomed large in discusssions. Maureen Baker spoke with great passion and no little anger voicing the concerns of many GPs. The whole of the speech is available at GP Online. Regarding the recent seven day working proposals she made the RCGP position clear:

She was disparaging of Jeremy Hunt’s “so-called” new deal and demanded George Osborne ensure that general practice received 11% of the NHS budget by 2020.

Jeremy Hunt may have been congratulating himself on avoiding the stress of facing several hundred irascible GPs, but it was a good gig for Shona Robison, the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Health, Wellbeing and Sport. She was good enough to provide the following summary of her speech:

As Scottish Health Secretary, I appreciate the opportunity to welcome GPs from all over the UK to Scotland and the City of Glasgow and your discussions this week at the RCGP Annual Conference 2015 will make an invaluable contribution.   In Scotland we are committed to collaboration with doctors, not imposing change but rather working in partnership.  We are  taking this approach with junior doctors, where we have said we will not impose new terms and conditions.  We are doing the same with GPs, where we are collaboratively developing a new contractual framework for General Practice in Scotland.

GPs are at the heart of local communities. Without the hard work and commitment of GPs and their professional colleagues, like nurses, pharmacists and physiotherapists, our health system simply wouldn’t be able to cope.

GPs care for families, but also effectively ‘look after’ the rest of the NHS, influencing by their decisions and actions a significant proportion of the activity of the whole system.

The Scottish Government has always been committed to supporting vital, front line health care services. Investment has increased in every year of this Government, and is now £80 million higher than when we took office.

However I know that GP workload is increasing, as is the complexity of health care; and where more is being delivered outside hospital settings, resources haven’t always followed in a proportionate way. The profession also faces serious challenges over recruitment, retention and increasing workload.

That is why we have been working with GPs, to agree on the good ideas and fresh thinking that are required to transform the way we provide care in Scotland.  This strategic approach puts GPs at the heart of multi-disciplinary teams of professionals, making a real difference to local communities. I have backed this work by introducing a £60 million primary care fund.

This money is being invested now in supplying new pharmacists to support GP workload, on GP leadership and recruitment and retention, on ensuring the future of the Scottish School of Primary Care and on testing new models of primary care in many parts of Scotland – from Deep End practices in Glasgow and Edinburgh dealing with inequalities to GP clusters in Grampian who are innovating in the way that they engage with their local community.

The future NHS must be very different from the past. We must develop new models of care, fit for the needs of the 21st century and the challenges ahead.

I am very proud of the NHS in Scotland. I know that General Practice is crucial to dealing with the challenges ahead. There is a firm commitment from the Scottish Government, backed by sustained investment, to continue to work with GPs to ensure the best for communities, for our people and for our families.

She saved the best for the speech itself and two promises sparkled in the Glasgow sunshine. Firstly, she announced a plan to dismantle QOF in Scotland. Yes, I know – apparently, it has “had its time”. And, finally, as befits a consummate politician she came circling back around to prey upon Jeremy Hunt. She was “appalled” by the actions of Jeremy Hunt and that the threats to junior doctors are “beyond the pale”. She offered no less than a “cast iron” guarantee that the Scottish Government will not be following Hunt’s plans to cut junior doctor pay.

The Scottish contingent of GPs were glowing and it wasn’t the unexpected dose of Glasgow UV on their faces. Those of us heading south face a long trip back in a day or two.

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