Scotland

Doctors welcome £20m funding for GPs

GP surgery

Doctors have welcomed an extra £20m of Scottish government money aimed at easing the pressure on GPs.

Health Secretary Shona Robison announced the funding as she addressed a GPs' conference in Clydebank.

She also said work would begin on bringing forward measures to tackle workload pressures.

The move came after the British Medical Association warned the GPs were becoming "increasingly burnt-out" by the "mounting pressures" on them.

Ms Robison said she was "committing £20m of additional investment, directly into general practice over the next year, because I recognise the need to provide more immediate support".

'Profession of choice'

She added: "General practice is a highly-valued part of our healthcare system in Scotland and we must get it back to being the profession of choice for more young doctors.

"We must also look after our GPs at whatever stage in their career to ensure the basics are right."

The funding announced includes:

  • £11m to increase GP pay by 1% and boost expenses by 1.5% next year
  • £2m set aside to improve and upgrade doctors' IT system
  • A further £2m will go on meeting three support measures the BMA has been calling for
  • These include providing an improved rate for cover for those doctors taking maternity, paternity or adoption leave, developing occupational health services for GPs and ensuring every practice has oxygen cylinders for use in an emergency
  • The remaining £5m will be used to ensure a GP from every practice can take part in regular sessions on "cluster working" as part of the move towards better integration of health and social care

Ms Robison said the announcement "demonstrates the commitment of me and my government to supporting, sustaining and enabling general practice to flourish."

Responding to the announcement, Dr Alan McDevitt, chair of the BMA's Scottish GP Committee, said it would help to alleviate some of the pressures that GPs are facing.

But he said more needed to be done, and he welcomed the health secretary's "collaborative approach to finding the solutions".

He added: "The cabinet secretary has today demonstrated that she recognises and understands the problems facing general practice.

"It is essential that this recognition is also matched by a financial commitment to the future of general practice by investing in a new GP contract."

'Significant step'

Mr McDevitt had earlier told delegates how family doctors "are increasingly becoming burnt-out by the mounting pressures and demands of running a GP practice".

He said that while the new GP contract "will resolve many of the current problems facing general practice", there was "a lack of willingness on the part of the government to actually commit to adequately funding the new contract".

Dr Miles Mack, chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners in Scotland, said the funding was "promising news" that looked like a "small but hopefully significant step in the right direction".

He added: "We are pleased to see an emphasis on the quality of patient care. Similarly, the £2m for IT infrastructure is desperately needed.

"The development of an occupational health service for primary care staff will also be warmly welcomed, such is the pressure those at the front line have been facing for so long."

Scottish Labour's health spokesman, Dr Richard Simpson, said any extra funding for primary care was to be welcomed.

But he added: "The SNP have cut £1.6bn from primary care in the past decade, so in that context £20m is little more than a sticking plaster.

"The SNP government in Edinburgh has presided over the biggest crisis in family doctors for a generation. We are seeing the result of that now, with practices serving communities overstretched and under resourced."

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Jim Hume accused the government of adopting a "sticking-plaster approach" which will "not be enough to plug the gaps in Scottish general practices".

He said: "Hundreds of practices have GP posts sitting empty for six months or more and we are facing a black hole in practices by 2020 when a third of GPs currently working will have retired.

"The health secretary herself revealed the cuts to GP services as a share of total NHS spending and in last month's budget John Swinney cut that share again."

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