SCOTLAND’S new GP contract will not address the immediate recruitment crisis facing doctors’ surgeries, a legal expert has warned.

Young doctors will still be responsible for costly repairs to crumbling surgeries neglected by former partners who pocketed government subsidies and ran rather than paying for maintenance, according to healthcare specialist Andy Drane.

Over two-fifths of GPs backed the new contract last week but Mr Drane, a partner at Davidson Chalmers, said GPs will still face repair bills reaching into the hundreds of thousands of pounds.

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The Scottish Government wants to bring all surgeries under health board control in the next 25 years, ending the decades old practice of retiring GPs passing on leases and liabilities to younger partners, but health boards will only pay for surgeries regarded as good value for money.

“The GP contract will not fix the short term recruitment issues that exist in the NHS,” said Mr Drane.

“Why the heck would a young doctor want to join a general practice, take on residual property liabilities, and effectively become the escape route for a more mature partner who wants out?”

The new National Code of Practice for GP Premises states that GPs who have taken “reasonable steps” to maintain their property may be able to recover part of the cost of “reasonable dilapidations…where budgets allow”.

It also requires GPs to try to reduce the amount payable to their landlords for dilapidations.

But Mr Drane said the new contract actually limits GPs’ ability to avoid dilapidation costs.

Many GPs currently ask landlords for repair subsidies in exchange for another long lease, but the move to bring practices under health board control could close this route off.

“Any landlord incentives would be paid to the Scottish Government and/or the health boards to enter into the new leases,” he said.

“Is that going to end up in the pockets of the doctors to deal with their dilapidations? I don’t think so.

“The government is treading a very fine line. They probably, quite rightly, regard dilapidation as the profession’s responsibility. They have been funded to deal with dilapidations over the last few decades, but the people that didn’t invest in the buildings have long since disappeared and it’s the young guys that are left picking up the tab.

“The Scottish Government, understandably, don’t want to just provide a complete bailout to a profession that they see, to some extent, as being complicit in the situation that they have ended up in but it just exacerbates the recruitment issues.

“One practice I am advising are considering just throwing in the towel now, shutting the doors, giving up practicing and saying to the health board ‘what are you going to do about it?’.

“They might have to meet the dilapidation liability themselves, but hopefully the health board will decide that they need medical services in that area and come to some sort of deal with the landlord if there nowhere else locally it can be provided from.

“I think that is a conversation that a lot of practices are having.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We have committed to providing an additional £30 million over the next three years to support GPs with premises, including GPs who rent their premises.

“Under the new contract, GPs can decide to continue to rent from private landlords or ask their health board to take on that responsibility.”

A BMA spokeswoman said: “This would normally only apply where a lease was due to expire and in these cases, there is clear intent in the premises directive, that health boards will assist with the renegotiation of the lease.

“This contract offers stability and security of funding for practices in Scotland and will help to reduce the pressures of GP workload and improve GP recruitment and retention.”