Leader comment: Welcome action to tackle GP crisis

Health Secretary Shona Robinson has announced �70m to tackle the country's GP crisis
Health Secretary Shona Robinson has announced �70m to tackle the country's GP crisis
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The unfolding crisis in the NHS is perhaps no more keenly felt than in general practice.

So unappealing has the career of a GP become, that around a third of training places go unfilled and an even higher proportion of those already in the job plan to quit.

The announcement of an extra £71.6 million from the Scottish Government to aid recruitment and retention is therefore welcome.

However, it cannot be allowed to become merely a sticking plaster for a chronic malaise.

That the NHS is currently under a huge deal of strain is beyond doubt.

An ageing population, obesity epidemic and era of financial austerity has created a perfect storm which is squeezing the health service like never before.

But while other areas of the public sector could benefit from an injection of much-needed cash, so deep-seated are the problems in the NHS that the funds are simply guzzled up before they can even touch the sides.

Anyone who has visited their GP recently will be all to aware of the pressures – the struggle to get an appointment; the difficulty of seeing the same doctor more than once; the rush to get you out of the door for the next patient.

The money announced by health secretary Shona Robison yesterday is to be used to reduce workload, address staffing shortfalls and “make services fit for the future”.

The funding includes £60m worth of direct support of general practice, which will go on staffing and infrastructure costs.

The remaining £11.6m will be set aside to cover pay and expenses in 2017/18.

The money is the first stage of the Scottish Government’s pledge to invest an extra £250m in direct support of general practice each year by 2021.

It is part of a wider promise to increase overall annual funding for primary care by £500m by 2021.

The BMA had called on the Scottish Government to act, and it has.

However, it is not guaranteed that this money will solve all the problems currently being experienced in general practice.

GPs are famously well paid, although like a lot of other cliches about the NHS, that may be a little out of date.

According to the British Medical Association (BMA), the maximum salary of a GP working in Scotland is just over £83,000 – a handsome remuneration, but not enough to attract and keep those who can earn more working in other, more glamorous parts of the health service.

It is likely that more will have to be done to encourage a new generation of junior doctors into careers as GPs.

To assess whether this additional funding has been a success, there will have to be proof that more GPs are being recruited, more retained and that patients are receiving a better service.

Given the challenges elsewhere in the NHS, it is also vital that funds are not taken from elsewhere to plug the gaps in general practice.

This funding is a step in the right direction, but there is a long way still to go.