Transforming primary care in Scotland : a critical policy analysis

Stewart, Ellen and Donaghy, Eddie and Guthrie, Bruce and Henderson, David and Huang, Huayi and Pickersgill, Martyn and Wang, Harry and Mercer, Stewart (2022) Transforming primary care in Scotland : a critical policy analysis. British Journal of General Practice, 72 (719). pp. 292-294. ISSN 0960-1643 (

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Strong primary care is central to effective health systems, but both in the United Kingdom (UK) and internationally, primary care has proved one of the most challenging areas for health policy reform (1,2). Across the UK's four health systems, there are currently some strong resonances in policy ambitions, including broadening the multidisciplinary team to support general practitioners, encouraging place-based collaboration between practices, and innovating for quality improvement. However, especially when comparing England and Scotland, contrasting policy approaches to pursuing these goals reflect different governmental "styles of intervention" (3). In Scotland, where health policy was devolved to the Scottish Parliament in 1999, primary care has undergone continual evolution as policymakers have sought to improve the quality of care delivered, and to address underlying - and still stubborn - population health inequalities. The seismic, top-down reorganisations that have characterised recent English health policy (4) have been absent in Scotland. There have, though, been significant developments. The wider health system was reconfigured by Scotland's 2014 Public Bodies (Joint Working) (Scotland) Act which mandated the statutory integration of health and social care, creating new integration authorities on a legal basis(5). Then in 2018, a Scotland-specific GP contract was introduced for the first time, removing the Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF) from Scottish primary care.