The Scottish Parliament has passed a new bill banning commercial companies from having any involvement with general practice in the country, in a move welcomed by the BMA.

MSPs have this week waved through the Tobacco and Primary Medical Services Bill, which removes the clause in the 1978 NHS Act that effectively enables health boards to offer primary care services contracts to commercial companies.

The British Medical Association, which has long been leading the charge against commercialisation of the health service, has applauded the move, which, it claims, will help to ensure continuity of care for patients and that general practice “remains the cornerstone of the NHS”.

“Doctors across Scotland welcome this commitment to a publicly provided and delivered NHS,” said GP Dean Marshall, Chairman of the BMA’s Scottish General Practitioners Committee, adding: “Accountability to a commercial employer and short-term contracts are an uncertain basis for the long-term relationship between professionals and patients upon which effective primary care depends”.

The move also flies in the face of Conservative health policy, which has pledged to boost the use of independent providers for NHS services if the party is elected, and also highlights the growing differences between the UK’s four health systems.