Scotland’s family doctors have warned the First Minister that GP surgeries will continue to close and patients’ lives will be put at risk unless more money is invested in practices and health centres.
In a hard-hitting consultation paper, the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) Scotland described patients queuing outside practices just to register with a doctor, and warned that plans for nurse practitioners to care for patients without doctor support puts people at risk.
The RCGP is urging the Scottish Government to honour what it says is a pledge to invest £500 million additional funds directly into general practice services by 2021.
The RCGP report predicted a shortfall of 828 GPs across Scotland by 2021, and highlighted 2,800 nursing vacancies and what it claims is the failure of health boards to recruit sufficient numbers of pharmacists trained to work in general practices.
The concerns were raised in a submission to the Scottish Government consultation on technology and innovation in the NHS.
The College also warned against successful general practice “babies” not being “thrown out with the bathwater” amid ongoing research aimed at providing new models of care.
A section of the paper called for clarification to ensure that only GPs can be allowed to perform the role of doctors, and said that in proposed new models of care, members of the wider multidisciplinary team cannot be seen as a substitute for GPs.
Rising workloads, a shortage of GPs and declining resources are cited by the College as putting “intolerable” pressure on doctors.
The paper stated: “General practice is in severe need of a clear, positive future, illustrated by adequate government investment, if it is to attract sufficient numbers of medical graduates to general practice speciality training.
“If the underfunding and confusion continues we will keep witnessing a considerable number of general practices closing and transferring the running of their practices to health boards due to insufficient resource through which to remain solvent.
“Patients will continue to be found queuing outside practices for the uncertain opportunity merely to register with a GP.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “As the First Minister announced last year, a further £500m will be invested in primary care by the end of this parliament.
“This spending increase in primary care, to 11 per cent of the frontline NHS budget, will support the development of a multi-disciplinary approach, with increased staffing as well as investment in GP services and health centres.”