GP funding 'putting patients at risk' in Scotland

a GP Image copyright PA
Image caption The RCGP said its research suggested one in four Scots cannot get an appointment with their GP within a week

The Scottish government's failure to adequately fund GPs is putting patients at risk, according to the organisation that represents general practitioners.

The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) warned of "dangerous consequences for patients in the light of continued underfunding".

A study by the body suggested one in four Scots cannot get an appointment with their GP within a week.

The Scottish government said GP funding in Scotland was at record levels.

But the RCGP said the Draft Budget for next year showed a real-terms funding drop of 2.2% for GPs.

It also claimed long waiting times for appointments, short consultations and weakening relationships between doctors and patients were contributing to a "crisis in general practice".

Later appointment

The RCGP said it had based its conclusions on an analysis of figures from the Scottish government's Health and Experience Survey 2013/14 and a ComRes poll carried out earlier this year.

The poll suggested that a majority of people believe there are too few GPs and would like to see funds moved from other parts of the health service to GPs.

One in four of those surveyed said they were unable to obtain an appointment with their GP within a week and, when this happened, 11% of people said they would neither take the later appointment nor seek help elsewhere.

RCGP said this raised concerns about untreated conditions.

The professional body also highlighted figures in the government's Health and Experience Survey which showed that on more than 3.3 million occasions, patients were unable to get to see either a doctor or a nurse until the third working day.

The figure represented almost one in every seven times a request was made.

And the survey found that on 1.6 million occasions, patients did not feel they had enough time with their GP - an increase of 8.25% since 2011/12.

Dr John Gillies, chairman of RCGP Scotland, said it was "incumbent on the government to act" in order to safeguard patient safety.

'Substantially higher'

He added: "Further cuts to the resources GPs have with which to care for patients can only exacerbate the problem.

"A real-terms drop in funding share of 2.2%, as outlined in the Draft Budget 2015/16, can only deepen the current, very real crisis.

"This drop stands directly against the 71% of Scots who would like to see funding move from other parts of the health service to general practice.

"General practice requires 11% of the NHS spend to adequately look after our patients. If the situation is not rectified, the consequences for the NHS in Scotland and for patients could be even more severe."

The RCGP said a petition with thousands of signatures calling for the situation to be a addressed situation would be handed to the first minister next week.

Health secretary Alex Neil said GP funding was at a record level in Scotland "despite cuts in our overall budget from Westminster".

He said: "The number of GPs in Scotland has increased by 5.7% under this government and the number of GPs per head of population is substantially higher in Scotland than England.

"This year our £8.2m increase in funding for the GP contract was double that recommended by the GPs' pay body, and was warmly welcomed by the BMA."

Mr Neil added: "Last year, 87% of patients rated their overall experience of care by the GP surgery as excellent or good.

"While this is a strong record, we are continuing to improve access and the latest GP contract substantially cuts bureaucracy to allow GPs more time with patients.

"It also requires every single GP surgery in Scotland to review their access arrangements to ensure patients could get prompt access to appointments."

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