Scotland politics

Scottish Labour urges ministers to accept 'mounting GP crisis'


Scottish Labour has called on the Scottish government to accept the "mounting crisis" in general practice, after research suggested a £1.1bn drop in GP investment in recent years.

Research by the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) found the share of NHS funding spent on general practice in Scotland has been falling.

It said it had fallen year-on-year from 9.8% in 2005/06 to 7.8% in 2012/13.

The Scottish government said primary care funding had risen since 2006/7.

It added that the increase had been £81m, or 12%, over that period.

In its study, the RCGP argued that general practice was a cost-effective part of healthcare in which to invest, as it was more economical than other parts of the system and could prevent worsening of patient outcomes.

However, it warned it would not be able to deliver positive change in the short, medium and long-term without "significant investment to increase the size of the workforce".

Recent BBC Scotland research showed that difficulties with GP recruitment had led to more doctors' surgeries being taken over by health boards.

Earlier this month NHS boards revealed 42 practices were under their control - a measure used in special circumstances and emergencies.

A Scottish doctor also warned recently that GPs were facing the "biggest workforce crisis in a generation", with more doctors needed if the system were to survive.

'Mounting crisis'

Responding to the RCGP report, Scottish Labour public health spokesman and former GP Dr Richard Simpson said: "The SNP government in Edinburgh need to open their eyes and accept the mounting crisis in general practice which has happened under their watch, because of their spending decisions.

"Since they came to power the amount of money invested in family doctors has been slashed year on year.

"They have squeezed health spending in Scotland harder than the Tories in England and practices which serve our communities are feeling the effects.

"The next decade will see a huge number of our GPs retire and there simply are not enough doctors training in general practice or even staying in the country to replace them."

Image caption Scottish Labour argues that problem of "under-staffed and under-resourced" practices will only get worse

He added: "Around two million patients in Scotland are served by under-staffed and under-resourced practices.

"This problem is not going to go away, it is only going to get worse and its effects will be felt through the NHS as patients unable to get appointments with their GP turn up at hospitals."

'Additional funding'

Public Health Minister Maureen Watt said: "This government has increased the amount of funding for primary care by £81m, or 12%, since 2006/7.

"Scotland continues to have the most GPs per head of population and spends the second highest per head in the UK on primary care.

"However we recognise that increasing attendances and recruitment challenges are putting additional pressure on GPs and that is why, last month, we announced an additional £60m to be invested in primary care over the next three years."

She said the additional funding was being used to "address immediate workload and recruitment issues" and put in place in place long-term change within primary care.

She added: "We're working closely with BMA Scotland and the Royal College of GPs to take forward this work and working with professionals across the health service, as well as patients and the public, to redesign our primary care services."

"We are also jointly working in Scotland with general practice to redesign the GP contract for implementation from 2017, which will take into account much of the learning from the next few years.

"In the interim period, we have agreed a period of contractual and financial stability for general practice until April 2017, the first time anywhere in the UK this has happened, while we review the contract more fundamentally, and to ensure that the pace of change is one which can be supported by general practitioners."

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