Covid Scotland: Government accused of 'rehashing old announcements' with more GP funding

The Scottish Government has been accused of “rehashing old announcements” with a statement on £83 million in funding for GP practices in Scotland.

The funds will allow practices to increase pharmacy, nursing and physiotherapy support and improve patient experience, the Government said.

But Scottish Labour labelled the announcement “brazen spin”, as £77.5m had already been allocated in 2018.

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“Extra funding for over-stretched GPs is always welcome," said Scottish Labour health spokesperson Jackie Baillie. “But once again the SNP are rehashing old announcements in an attempt to look like they’re doing something.

Health Secretary, Humza Yousaf talks to the media during a visit to Liberton Hospital in Edinburgh in January re date: Tuesday January 11, 2022.

“The Government’s brazen spin glosses over the fact that all but £5.1m of this funding was agreed and announced four years ago.”

Ms Baillie added: “Primary care is in crisis and the SNP are fiddling the figures instead of finding solutions.

“We need to support GPs through this unprecedented crisis or the rest of our NHS will pay the price.”

Some £77.5m of the announcement was allocated under the 2018 GP contract to health boards, as part of £360m committed over four years.

An extra £3.1m has come from this year’s Budget, and an additional £2m has been allocated to modernise phone systems in practices.

Health secretary Humza Yousaf said: “GP surgeries provide a wide range of services, supporting both the physical and mental health of patients. The contribution general practice makes to the health and wellbeing of communities is invaluable.

"This funding will improve how general practice services are delivered and in turn enhance the patients’ experience of accessing care.

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“We have now delivered every penny we committed to health boards and GPs as part of our ongoing commitment to help support practices deliver care.

"The NHS is facing the biggest challenge this winter and this investment will have real benefits for both patients and front-line staff.”

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Chair of British Medical Association Scotland’s GP committee Dr Andrew Buist said: “Things continue to be really tough for GPs and teams working in practices across Scotland.

"We need help to cope with demand – both while the pandemic continues and looking longer term, including as restrictions begin to ease following the Omicron wave.

"A crucial part of this is building the teams around GPs and ensuring there are the right skilled staff in place to ensure people at treated by the most appropriate professional, freeing up GPs time to focus on the highest priority patients who need our time the most.

"This funding will make a crucial contribution in that sense, so is very welcome and we hope it will make a real difference for practices and patients across Scotland.”

The funding will allow other professionals to operate in GP practices, including pharmacists for repeat prescriptions and medication reviews, and nurses for routine tests and wound treatment, as well as access to physiotherapy services.

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These measures will give GPs more time to spend with patients, and on complex diagnoses including suspected cancer cases, the Government said.

Cathie Cowan, chief executive of NHS Forth Valley, said: “NHS Forth Valley was one of the first health boards in Scotland to pilot the introduction of physiotherapists and mental health nurses in local GP practices and has invested in the development of multidisciplinary teams to support local GP across the area.”

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