GP call to target extra cash in poor areas

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Doctors' leaders have urged the Scottish government to target increased investment in general practice at tackling health inequalities.

The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) Scotland called for a promised extra £500m for GPs and health centres to have a "sharper focus" in order to bring about change.

The increased funding was announced at the SNP conference last October.

The government said it was "determined to tackle health inequalities".

Health Secretary Shona Robison pointed to a "links worker" programme, which will be extended following a pilot in deprived areas of Glasgow and Dundee.

The government-funded scheme provides a dedicated worker in GP surgeries who helps people with issues of poverty, debt and isolation which are making them feel unwell.

'Vital work'

RCGP Scotland chairman Dr Miles Mack said the additional investment offered "a major opportunity to invest in general practice and lessen the effects of the inverse care law, under which those most in need of healthcare have least access to it".

He added: "The root cause of the inverse care law has to be addressed in order to effectively tackle the health inequalities resulting from it.

"Investment in the Scottish government's leading Govan SHIP (Social and Health Integrated Partnership) project has shown that there can be positive outcomes as a result of investing in these areas.

"Of course, this investment should not be at the cost of remote and rural areas, where the expense of providing care is inevitably high and needs to be seen through the much wider scope of GP work operating without the back-up of the wider primary care team.

"Instead, such new, targeted investment should be seen as part of a package of support that recognises the vital work general practice performs across Scotland to support those most in need and to realise the stated priorities of the present Scottish government."

Green MSP Alison Johnstone has also written to Ms Robison calling for spending on GP practices to be better targeted in the most deprived areas.

Health inequalities

She said: "I am very concerned about recent figures showing that GP practices in the most-deprived 10% of postcodes receive just £3.79 more per patient than those in the least-deprived.

"This cannot adequately allow GPs to address unmet need and respond to complex health problems.

"What is even more concerning is that practices in the most-deprived 20% of postcodes actually receive £1.34 less per patient than those in the least-deprived 20%.

"Greens believe the way that funding is distributed directly to GPs should change so that GPs in more deprived areas receive a greater share of funding."

Ms Robison said: "We are determined to tackle health inequalities through primary care services. By the end of this parliament, we will have invested an extra £500m in primary and GP care."

The number of community links workers will be increased to 250 in disadvantaged areas over the next five years, she said.

"Adjusting the Scottish allocation formula might also help to tackle health inequalities," she added.

"The formula has been reviewed and we are currently considering the potential impact of implementing the review findings at individual GP practice level."

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