Speaking at the Scottish LMCs conference in Glasgow on Friday, cabinet secretary for health and sport, Jeane Freeman said: ‘The risks associated with handling sensitive data are a concern. The effects of GDPR adds to these risks… I am pleased to announce that health boards will provide the data protection officers needed for general practice at no cost to GPs.’

The announcement comes less than a week after a survey by GPonline and its sister site Medeconomics found that over half (57%) of GP practices had experienced 'scandalous' extra costs and increased workload under new GDPR rules.

GDPR refers to the General Data Protection Regulation, which came into effect in the UK on 25 May 2018. It is designed to harmonise data privacy laws across Europe and protect citizens from privacy and data breaches by providing a framework with greater scope and tougher punishments for those who fail to comply.

Data protection

In March, the UK LMCs conference demanded an uplift in core funding to take account of increased workload associated with the introduction of GDPR and argued that it was no longer sustainable for the GP to be the sole data controller.

Speaking at the time GPC IT lead Dr Paul Cundy said that the BMA was actively engaged with the Information Commissioners Office and NHS England to ‘do what we can to mitigate the impact of GDPR’.

Ms Freeman reaffirmed the Scottish government’s commitment to the new GP contract implemented in April. She told LMC delegates: ‘You know better than me that general practice is a broad church. But here in Scotland, we have established a relationship of strong mutual respect and a culture of open and honest conversations between government and GPs.

‘So to you all, let me reaffirm my commitment to this contract and to the memorandum of understanding that is critical to its implementation. It must happen.’

Her words - which were met with applause - followed a speech from Scotland GPC chair Dr Andrew Buist, who made it ‘crystal clear’ that the BMA would hold Scottish government to account over the contract.

Dr Buist said: ‘I believe the contract has restored hope for our profession. Working together, we can create a sustainable and successful future for us all. That is, sustainable general practice services over the whole of Scotland, in all types of practice, with increased numbers of GPs working in jobs that are attractive enough to retain the GPs we have, and to recruit the next generation of GPs we need.

‘The first steps of transforming general practice have been laid out clearly for us; we must now build the foundations and deliver the changes that general practice in Scotland so clearly needs.’

Leadership

Under the new Scottish contract, which came into effect in April 2018, GPs have also seen the introduction of the premises interest-free sustainability loan scheme which Dr Buist said ‘will go a considerable way to ease ‘last man standing’ situations’. The contract has also brought reforms to practice funding and a minimum earnings guarantee.

Ms Freeman told the conference: ‘I don’t take your leadership in creating this new future for granted. I see your leadership now in developing plans, and I unashamedly ask you for more and continued leadership as we build our future. Because only with that genuine involvement of GPs will we improve care for everyone, everywhere in Scotland.’

Rural GPs have criticised the Scottish contract deal - warning last year that it risked driving them to extinction by reducing their income.