GPs have been given an emergency £20 million boost as ministers scrambled to deliver short term measures to tackle the crisis in primary care.
Health secretary Shona Robison unveiled a raft of measures to help general practitioners, including £5m for training in new working practices, £2m funding to upgrade IT infrastructure and moves for better occupational health and maternity leave.
It also included £11m towards a 1 per cent uplift in GP pay and a 1.5 per cent rise for their expenses.
Doctors, gathered at a British Medical Association (BMA) conference in Clydebank yesterday, welcomed the move but raised serious concerns about practices closing or running at vastly reduced staffing levels, with many warning general practice was “running out of time”.
Dr Alan McDevitt, chair of BMA Scottish GP committee, said: “Practices need tangible support now if they are to weather the storm which general practice is facing. If practices don’t receive that much-needed relief, then soon some will have run out of time.”
Many doctors complained of burnout and workload pressures after a BMA survey revealed one in four Scottish GP practices was understaffed, with vacancies unfilled for over six months.
Ms Robison said the next three years would be a critical transition period as the model of the health service shifts to deliver more care in the community.
The package also included a reimbursement for practices for maternity leave, to make them more family friendly.
Speaking after the conference, Dr McDevitt said the funding was not a long-term solution but was a welcome step towards easing GP workloads.
Lib Dem health spokesman Jim Hume said the move was another example of a “sticking plaster approach”.
He added: “There is a lengthy list of long-term challenges facing primary care in Scotland. Hundreds of practices have GP posts sitting empty for six months or more and we are facing a black hole in practices by 2020 when a third of GPs currently working will have retired.”