Scottish Conservatives pledge to increase GPs' share of NHS funding

The Scottish Conservative party has pledged to increase GP funding as a share of the NHS budget if they win next month's parliamentary election.

Scottish parliament building (Photo: iStock)
Scottish parliament building (Photo: iStock)

In a manifesto published on Wednesday, the Conservatives said they would reintroduce prescription charges to fund additional GPs and consider allowing practices to fine patients who repeatedly miss appointments.

The party said it supports current moves towards GP clusters and additional freedoms for GPs within them.

But, it added, with the overall health budget due to increase over the course of the parliament, GP budgets should be increased too. ‘In addition, the share of the budget that GPs get should also increase every year,’ the party said.

GP funding

Earlier this year RCGP Scotland said GP and patients would be ‘bemused’ that the SNP government’s budget had confirmed a reduction in GPs' share of NHS funding.

The college said general practice’s share of funding had fallen from 9.8% in 2005/6 to a record low of 7.4% in 2014/15 and would fall further in the coming year. The college is calling for general practice to receive 11%.

But SNP health secretary Shona Robison said GP funding had increased every year under the current government, from £704.6m in 2007/8 to £852.6m in 2014/15, while the overall NHS budget in Scotland rose £13bn a year.

The Conservative party, which held 15 out of the Scottish parliament’s 129 seats in the last parliament, and has just one MP, is currently polling 18% to a YouGov opinion poll for the Times published Tuesday.

Conservative manifesto

The manifesto, published Wednesday, said a Conservative-led government would consider allowing GPs to fine patients who miss appointments.

‘Improvements in notifying patients of their upcoming appointments as well as making bookings and cancellations easier must also be a part of the solution,' it said.

‘In addition, we think further measures like allowing health boards and GPs to levy fines from those patients who miss their appointments three times without good grounds should be explored.’

A gradual reintroduction of prescription charges for those who can afford them would raise £65m by the end of the parliament to invest in GPs, nurses, health visitors and access to new medicines, the party says.

The Conservative manifesto says the party has a ‘long-standing commitment to a universal GP-attached health visiting service, extended to age seven'.

It says: ‘In order to achieve this, we would hire an additional 500 health visitors over the next four years, above and beyond the SNP’s present plans, and providing a considerable shift towards early intervention.’

A Tory government would also put dedicated mental health support in every GP practice in Scotland as part of a £300m investment to improve mental health treatment over the next parliament, according to the manifesto.

Additional support would also be provided for social prescribing with more information on local services available to GPs.

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