Nicola Sturgeon has been challenged to “do the right thing” and invest more cash in Scotland’s GP services, with Tories claiming family doctors had lost out on a “whopping £660 million” compared to counterparts south of the border.
Conservative interim leader Jackson Carlaw made the plea as he attacked the SNP’s 11 and a half years of “incompetence” in presiding over Scotland’s health services.
With the UK Budget having included £550 million of spending for the NHS north of the border, he was “clear more of that increased resource should be going to general practice”.
The Tory MSP argued: “More funding to GPs will help our NHS, help keep people out of hospital and reduce demand on critical services.
“The SNP say they will eventually increase spending on primary care to 11% of NHS spending but GPs are also being told they will have to wait till 2021 to see it.”
Pressing the issue at First Minister’s Questions in the Scottish Parliament, he asked the SNP leader to “do the right thing and give Scotland’s GPs and patients the support they need now”.
Mr Carlaw, who is standing in for Ruth Davidson while she is on maternity leave, stated: “In each and every one of the last five years investment in general practice has been lower in Scotland than it has been south of the border, a spending gap that has amounted now to a whopping £660 million of support lost to primary care in Scotland.”
Ms Sturgeon insisted the Scottish Government was “working towards” the target of having 11% of frontline NHS cash go to primary care by 2021.
She said this had to be achieved on a phased basis “so we don’t destabilise acute services as we do that”.
She added: “We have got to make sure we get that balance right.”
The First Minister also said that “investment in primary care has gone up every single year of this government”.
In addition to this, she said health spending in Scotland was 7% higher per person than in the rest of the UK, with Scotland also having more GPs per person than south of the border.
In England there are 71 GPs per 100,000 people while Scotland has 91 for every 100,000 of the population, she said.
She told Mr Carlaw that the additional Budget cash for the NHS was “welcome” but insisted it was less than the amount initially promised by the Conservatives at Westminster.
Ms Sturgeon stated: “Those consequentials are not just a gift from the UK Government, they come from Scottish taxpayers’ money that goes to the Treasury before it comes back to Scotland.
“That £550 million, however welcome that may be, is not the £600 million the Tories were promising the Scottish budget, so the Tories yet again are short-changing the Scottish budget and the Scottish health service.”