Use new GP funding to cut health inequalities, says RCGP

A planned £500m investment in Scottish general practice must be used to cut health inequalities, the RCGP has warned after data showed deprived areas do not receive the extra funding they need.

RCGP Scotland chair Dr Miles Mack
RCGP Scotland chair Dr Miles Mack

The comments came after the Scottish Green party wrote to Scotland's health minister Shona Robison this week to call for a redistribution of GP funding to deliver a greater share to deprived areas.

Data published last year by ISD Scotland showed that practices in the 10 most deprived postcodes in Scotland receive just £3.79 more per patient than practices in the wealthiest areas.

Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon announced last year that general practice in Scotland would receive 11% of the overall NHS budget by 2021, equivalent to an additional investment of £500m a year.

An increase in GMS spending in 2017/18 and a further £72m investment in primary care announced in last month's Scottish budget were welcomed by the RCGP as a significant step towards fairer GP funding.

GP funding

RCGP Scotland chair Dr Miles Mack said: 'The £500m extra funding announced by the first minister on 15 October is a major opportunity to invest in general practice and lessen the effects of the inverse care law, under which those most in need of healthcare have least access to it.

'The root cause of the inverse care law has to be addressed in order to effectively tackle the health inequalities resulting from it. Investment in the Scottish government’s leading Govan SHIP project has shown that there can be positive outcomes as a result of investing in these areas.

'Of course, this investment should not be at the cost of remote and rural areas, where the expense of providing care is inevitably high and needs to be seen through the much wider scope of GP work operating without the backup of the wider primary care team. Instead such new, targeted investment should be seen as part of a package of support that recognises the vital work general practice performs across Scotland to support those most in need and to realise the stated priorities of the present Scottish government.'

Following the Greens' letter to Ms Robison, Scottish Green MSP for Lothian, Alison Johnstone, said: 'GPs in the most deprived areas of Scotland are not adequately resourced and we need the government to do more to help improve access to general practice in those areas, where GPs have longer lists, patients have more complex health needs and a lower "healthy life expectancy" compared to patients in less deprived areas.

'I am very concerned about recent figures showing that GP practices in the most deprived 10% of postcodes receive just £3.79 more per patient than those in the least deprived. This cannot adequately allow GPs to address unmet need and respond to complex health problems.  What is even more concerning is that practices in the most deprived 20% of postcodes actually receive £1.34 less per patient than those in the least deprived 20%.

'Greens believe the way that funding is distributed directly to GPs should change so that GPs in more deprived areas receive a greater share of funding.'

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