£50m boost to tackle GPs crisis ‘not far enough’

Scotland could face a shortfall of 900 GPs within five years, says the BMA. Picture: Getty/iStockphoto
Scotland could face a shortfall of 900 GPs within five years, says the BMA. Picture: Getty/iStockphoto
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GP leaders have said a £50 million boost from the Scottish Government may not go far enough to tackle Scotland’s recruitment crisis for family 
doctors.

Almost half of the money from the new primary care fund - which will be delivered over the next three years - will go towards piloting new ways of working while just £2.5 million will go towards recruitment and retention of staff.

There was widespread support for the plans to invest £16.2 million on 140 new pharmacists with advanced clinical training, who would work with practices to reduce the burden on GPs.

The British Medical Association (BMA) Scotland has previously warned that the nation could face a shortfall of up to 900 GPs by 2020.

Health secretary Shona Robison said that new investment was the beginning of the process towards designing primary care services for the future.

She said: “Primary care services play a hugely important role in looking after the health of the nation, and GPs in particular are vital in delivering front-line healthcare services in the 
community.

“However, I acknowledge that many GPs find workload and recruitment issues challenging, and we’ll keep working with the profession to address this.”

A further £10 million will be invested in primary care mental health services to target needs in the community. Ministers are working closely with organisation such as BMA Scotland and the Royal College of GPs (RCGP) to take forward this work, and Ms Robison has pledged to engage with patients and the public throughout the redesign.

The health secretary also promised a completely new GP contract to be in place by 2017.

Dr Elaine McNaughton, RCGP Scotland deputy chair of policy, said the investment met some of recommendations it laid out its latest report “A Blueprint for Scottish General Practice” which was released this week, but “the workforce situation requires a much larger response”. She said: “A declared indication of investment in general practice is very welcome. However, we have reservations about how sufficient these measures will be in meeting the recommendations outlined in (our) blueprint for Scottish general practice.

“We must have evidenced assurance, for example, of the reversal of continual cuts to general practice funding, seeing instead substantial and sustained increases.”

Dr McNaughton added: “Although we are of course keen to support any investment to increase recruitment, we also need to see specific additional action to address the retention of currently serving GPs who may otherwise see fit to leave the profession, and to encourage those who have already left to return.”

Dr Alan McDevitt, chair of the BMA’s Scottish GP committee, said the investment will enable GPs to try new ways of working to deliver first-class care and improve the working lives of GPs.

Leadership training will provide GPs with additional skills to influence the design and delivery of community services for their patients, he said.