Scots GPs call for major commitment to raise NHS funding

Doctors leaders have urged politicians to ensure Scotland is not left behind after general practice in England was given a £2.4 billion boost by NHS bosses.

Demand for rise in English primary care budget should be mirrored in Scotland, say GPs. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Demand for rise in English primary care budget should be mirrored in Scotland, say GPs. Picture: Ian Georgeson

The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) Scotland said the service was under “extreme pressure” as funding has fallen by £1.6bn since 2005.

NHS England announced a major rescue package this week for struggling family doctors, including funding for 5,000 more GPs by 2020.

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Scottish GPs have called for the move to be urgently replicated north of the Border – the equivalent to an extra £270m by 2020.

Dr Miles Mack, chair of RCGP Scotland, said: “The service is under extreme pressure with practices and individual GPs either creaking or folding under that pressure, right across the country.

“This for the service that provides 90 per cent of patients’ contact with the NHS.”

Scotland is facing a major shortfall of GPs while a quarter of all practices were reporting at least one vacancy, according to a survey by the British Medical Association.

The SNP’s plans for health and social care integration are set to place greater pressure on GPs as the burden of care shifts away from hospitals.

Dr Mack, who works as a GP in Dingwall, Ross-shire, called for “a clear and unambigious message” that general practice would be protected.

NHS funding has featured prominently in election campaigns so far, although politicians have yet to back RCGP Scotland’s call to receive 11 per cent of NHS Scotland’s £12bn budget.

Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie announced a four-point plan to improve primary care yesterday, which backed increasing the proportion of funding for general practice.

The Conservatives have pledged to increase funding for GPs, nurses and health visitors using money raised through bringing back prescription charges, while the Scottish Greens promised to enhance funding for primary care. Labour also committed to spending an extra £500m for all primary care.

An SNP spokesperson: “We’re committed to increasing the proportion of the NHS budget being spent on primary care each year, and to increasing GPs numbers.”