The RCGP has warned of considerable risk of practice closures and patients being forced to queue for appointments if underfunding of the service continues and accuses the government of confusion and delay over a promise of new cash.
The Scottish government has said that up to half of a £500m package of support announced by the first minister last year may not go into general practice.
Nicola Sturgeon promised to increase the share of NHS funding in Scotland spent on general practice to 11%, as demanded by the RCGP. ‘By 2021, an extra half billion pounds will be invested in our GP practices and health centres,' Ms Sturgeon said.
Now ministers and officials have said that just half that will be used ‘in direct support of general practice’, to fund multidisciplinary working, workforce and practice investment, which they say was agreed with the BMA. The college has said the term 'in direct support' is 'too broad and lacks sufficient clarity'.
GPonline understands that the remaining £250m that has not specifically been earmarked for practices, will be spent in ‘primary care’, although that could include general practice or services which support GPs.
In a submission to the Scottish parliament’s health committee consultation on NHS innovation, the RCGP warns that over a decade of cuts to general practice’s share of NHS funding was a barrier to innovation.
The college said delivery of the government’s commitment had been ‘confused and delayed by later statements’ after the government began talking about half a million pounds for ‘primary care’.
The college said it was clear the first minister had initially meant that all £500m would be spent in general practices.
Practices at risk
A government spokesperson said: ‘As the first minister announced last year, a further £500m will be invested in primary care by the end of this parliament. This spending increase in primary care, to 11% of the frontline NHS budget, will support the development of a multi-disciplinary approach, with increased staffing as well as investment in GP services and health centres.
She added: ‘Health secretary Shona Robison recently set out that £250m of this new investment will be in direct support of general practice, helping to transform the way services are delivered in the community - an approach that was agreed with the BMA.
‘In this financial year, over £71m of that funding is to support general practice by improving recruitment and retention, reducing workload, developing new ways of delivering services and covering pay and expenses.’