Scotland politics

Government lacks 'clear vision' on GP services, MSPs say

GP Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption The committee voiced fears that GPs were seen as "second-class medics"

The Scottish government does not have "a clear vision" about the future of GP services and primary care, Holyrood's health committee has said.

The committee sent a letter to Health Secretary Shona Robison outlining the findings of an inquiry into GP hubs.

Convener Neil Findlay urged the government to tackle the perception that GPs are "second-class medics".

Ms Robison insisted she had a "clear shared vision on the future direction of GP services" agreed with doctors.

The health and sport committee conducted a short inquiry into primary care, with two evidence sessions hearing from GPs, their representatives and Ms Robison.

Mr Findlay laid out the findings of the investigation in a letter to the health secretary, which suggested a number of steps that could be taken to increase the number of family doctors, including changing the "largely academic-based approach" medical schools use to select students.

'Second-class medics'

He wrote: "Overall, we consider there is an absence of a clear vision setting out what primary care should look like in the future.

"Concerns around GP recruitment, vacancy rates and the profession have been well rehearsed. This is why we wanted to take specific evidence on this issue to determine what else the Scottish government needs to do to tackle this problem.

"What was clear was that within the medical profession general practitioners were viewed as second-class medics. This committee considers this issue so fundamental that unless it is addressed we don't see how any attempts to boost recruitment can work.

"We also heard of real issues around retaining medical students who train in Scotland. More needs to be done to come up with ways to encourage students who study here to stay here and practice."

Image caption Committee convener Neil Findlay sent a letter to Health Secretary Shona Robison

During their inquiry, the committee heard that 25% to 30% of the work done by GPs could be dealt with by other professionals such as nurses and pharmacists, with MPs urging the government to set out in detail how "they will ensure full co-operation and participation from GPs in the development and delivery of a true multi-disciplinary team partnership".

The committee questioned if medical schools are "automatically reducing the potential pool of those desiring a career in general practice" by targeting academic high flyers.

To address this, the MSPs suggested ministers "consider whether changes to the current largely academic-based approach might be beneficial in increasing numbers seeking to enter general practice".

Ms Robison responded: "We're working with doctors to transform primary care, backed by our commitment to increase the amount invested in primary care and GP services by £500 million by the end of this parliament.

"We have a clear shared vision on the future direction of GP services with the BMA, including the enhanced role GPs can play, which forms the bedrock of our negotiations towards a new GP contract."

"NHS staffing is at a record high level and we've already increased GP numbers under this government.

"But we are committed to going further as we transform our local health services to better-meet the needs of communities across Scotland."

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