Scottish government urged to restore doctors’ goodwill
27 December 2012
The Scottish government and the medical profession are most effective when working together but trust will need to be rebuilt in 2013, doctors leaders say.
BMA Scotland chair Brian Keighley said Scotland’s unwillingness to mitigate the worst of the NHS pension reforms had damaged its relationship with doctors and driven them to consider escalated strike action in autumn.
But Dr Keighley did acknowledge that Scottish ministers had fulfilled their promise to negotiate some changes to the GP contract, which was agreed with the BMA earlier this month. This was in marked contrast to plans to impose the contract onto GPs elsewhere in the UK.
In his New Year’s message, Dr Keighley said: ‘Scottish ministers must recognise that the dispute over pensions has severely damaged trust among the medical profession.
‘Continued attacks on doctors’ terms and conditions have had a serious impact on workforce morale as doctors face a further year of pay freezes, increases to their pension contributions at the same time as meeting rising demand for services with a shrinking workforce.
‘There is only so much goodwill in the profession and at the moment it is severely strained. If Scottish ministers wish to continue the journey towards a quality NHS, responsive to patients’ needs, they will soon have to re-engage with the medical profession it has treated so badly in 2012.’
Yet Dr Keighley added that GP contract negotiations had shown ‘some encouraging signs’, with the changes recognising both the needs of patients and the need to manage GP workload.
He called on cabinet secretary for health and well-being Alex Neil to recognize the pressures falling on the shoulders of the workforce and develop policies that support them.
Dr Keighley said: ‘In particular, I call on Mr Neil to work with the BMA in Scotland to make sure that any changes to consultant and junior doctor contracts are fit for purpose for our NHS. We have clearly shown that working in partnership with the profession can deliver improvements for patients based on clinical need rather than political priorities.’
He also urged Scotland to remain strong in its fight to introduce minimum alcohol unit pricing despite recent challenges at home and abroad.
Dr Keighley insisted: ‘It is important that the member states of the EU consider the positive health impacts of minimum pricing on their populations. There is clear evidence that increasing price will reduce consumption and thereby reduce the health harms associated with excessive drinking.
‘I hope that 2013 is the year when Scotland leads the world by introducing this landmark policy.’