FUNDING for family doctors has been slashed by more than £1.6 billion over the last decade with a loss of more than four million patient consultations, according to new analysis from doctors leaders.
The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) Scotland called for ministers to reconsider GP funding after a decade of cuts to its share of NHS Scotland spending, which has led to a recruitment crisis meaning Scotland could face a 900 GP shortfall by 2020.
RCGP Scotland has been increasingly outspoken over what is sees as attempts to “erode” the role of the GP, as general practice will receive just 7.4 per cent of the 2016-17 draft NHS budget, compared to 9.8 per cent in 2005-06.
The cuts have led to a loss of 4.5 million consultations per year over the last ten years, the college said. But Health Secretary Shona Robison refuted the claims, saying the number of GPs working in Scotland had increased by seven per cent under the SNP,
Opposition politicians criticised “a staggering level of underinvestment” in general practice after the publication of the new blueprint for Scottish healthcare last week, which calls for delivering more care in the community rather than in hospitals.
Dr Miles Mack, chair of RCGP Scotland, said: “£1.6bn has been cut from the budget of general practice that should have been invested in GPs, staff and infrastructure. Instead we have a recruitment crisis and patients waiting three weeks for an appointment with their family doctor.
“Mr [John] Swinney said in the Scottish Parliament on 10 February that he will reconsider funding for general practice in the light of the recent public outcry. We urge him to make the right choice.”
As well as long waits to see GPs, some areas have been forced to close their lists.
Dr Mack added: “Without an increase in funding, Scottish Government’s plans for more community-based care will not be met and patient care and safety will suffer.”
Labour public services spokesman Dr Richard Simpson, a former GP, said: “This is a simply staggering level of underinvestment in the health of our communities in the last decade. Despite warm words about primary care, the SNP budget makes even further cuts to the share of NHS funds to general practice, which will deepen the crisis.”
Ms Robison said: “These claims do not reflect the reality, which is that funding for GPs has actually increased each year under this government, rising from £704.61 million in 2007-08 to £852.57m in 2014-15 – at the same time as we have increased the overall NHS budget in Scotland to £13bn a year.