Blog: New contracts for GPs rolled out

Andy Drane

Andy Drane, partner at Davidson Chalmers, writes on new arrangements affect GPs and GP premises.

In Scotland new General Medical Services and Section 17C Contracts for GPs came into force on 1st April 2018. These Contracts seek to implement the agreement reached between Scottish Government and the BMA in late 2017 and approved by the profession in early 2018.

Reaching agreement has been a long and tortuous process dealing with seemingly intractable issues. The fact that agreement was reached at all is laudable; that it should be acceptable to a majority of doctors is remarkable. The Scottish Government described it as “an historic joint agreement”.

A significant part of that agreement related to Premises issues. So important were these issues that an entirely separate National Code of Practice for GP Premises was published as part of the proposals. The intent behind the Code of Practice is that there should be a substantial reduction in risk for GP partners in Scotland.

Whilst the new Contracts came into force on 1st April much is still uncertain. The NHS in Scotland is now getting to grips with the myriad facets of what was agreed between government and the profession. One such facet is the introduction of a new GP Premises Sustainability Fund. It is intended that the Fund will make available interest-free secured loans of up to 20% of the existing use value of their premises by 31st March 2023.

The Scottish Government has instigated the first step towards introducing this. It envisages three rounds of funding in 2018/19 with further information being released during May 2018. Health Boards have been instructed by the Scottish Government to ask interested GP Practices to provide a brief note of interest in receiving a sustainability loan. Interested Practices have also been asked to advise whether they believe they are a priority and, if so, why. For a practice to be a “priority” it must fall within one of the following categories:-

Category 1 – Borrowing costs are greater than premises financial assistance (i.e. notional rent or borrowing costs payments).

Category 2 – Former partners on the title deeds (i.e. where a former partner’s interest needs to be bought out).

Category 3 – Resigning partners (i.e. where the resigning partner’s interest needs to be bought out).

Category 4 – Potential new partner (i.e. where funds will assist a new partner joining the practice).

Category 5 – Other urgent sustainability challenges (i.e. the Practice requires urgent assistance and the loan will assist in a significant change being made).

In the first instance interested Practices have until 25th May 2018 to submit a note of interest. There is no guarantee that submission of a note of interest will result in a loan being made on acceptable terms to the Practice. If a Practice proposes submitting a note of interest then it should consider carefully whether to do this and how best to present its request. It would be sensible to take advice from appropriate professional advisers such as the Practice accountants and lawyers.

Further information is anticipated from the Scottish Government in the coming days and further briefing notes will follow.