HOSPITALS will be “broken” unless more resources are put into general practice to help doctors care for patients in the community, the leader of Scotland’s GPs has warned.
Alan McDevitt, chair of the British Medical Association’s Scottish GPs committee, said in the past week a hospital in Glasgow was forced to stop admitting GP referrals, in a situation mirrored across the country.
He said with the ageing population, primary care providers such as GPs need more support so that hospitals are available for those who needed them.
Speaking ahead of the BMA’s conference of GPs in Clydebank today, Dr McDevitt also called for action to tackle doctors’ workloads to make the profession attractive to newcomers.
Dr McDevitt said hospitals faced rising admissions due to more older people needing medical help, making it vital that GPs were supported to care for patients in the community where appropriate.
He said less than 8 per cent of NHS funding was currently spent on general practice and that proportion was dropping, despite the fact GPs were being encouraged to take on more work.
Dr McDevitt said: “One of the controversial things will be what share of resources primary care should get. That is a difficult argument because hospitals are not quiet but they do use most of the money of the NHS.
“What is also clear is that hospitals will be broken unless primary care can do more.”
But Dr McDevitt acknowledged that it was difficult to take money away from hospitals when they were already stretched.
“Because of the way the population is going we are already seeing hospitals very busy, so how do you free up more money from that to allow you to do more in primary care?” he said. “Are we going to face a situation where we can’t admit anybody because there aren’t any beds?”
The Clydebank GP said just this week the Western Infirmary in Glasgow had been closed to new admissions, with GPs’ patients diverted elsewhere.
“And this is a time when we’re not under any undue pressure. This is a fact of the population getting older,” he said.
“It is a regular occurrence, usually in the winter months.
“But quite often a particular hospital will close just because they have had a surge in demand. Increasingly it happens when we wouldn’t perceive a particularly big rise in general practice.”
Dr McDevitt said more staff were needed, including support from staff such as district nurses and social work teams, to help provide care in future.
A spokeswoman for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said: “As part of normal bed management practice used throughout Scotland to deal with peaks in admission rates there may be short periods where patients referred to hospital by GPs may be diverted to other hospitals.
“None of our hospitals are closed to emergency new admissions by blue light or emergency walk in patients.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We invested £757 million in primary medical services in 2012/13, As well as investing in innovation in general practice through a £1 million innovation programme.
“The Health Secretary has also asked boards to consider directing extra funds to primary care through this year’s Local Delivery Planning process.
“General practice is at the heart of our 2020 vision for health and social care. We are determined to ensure that new legislation to integrate health and social care services will focus on making services better for patients, especially those with long term conditions and disabilities, and many of whom are older people.”