General practice in Scotland to receive 11% of NHS budget by 2021

GP leaders have hailed an announcement from first minister Nicola Sturgeon that general practice spending in Scotland will rise to 11% of the NHS budget - amounting to an extra £500m - by 2021.

RCGP Scotland chair Dr Miles Mack: new funding can transform general practice
RCGP Scotland chair Dr Miles Mack: new funding can transform general practice

Speaking at the 2016 SNP annual conference on Saturday, Ms Sturgeon said the increase means that half of Scotland’s overall health budget will be spent on delivering care in the community 'for the first time ever'.

The move – which sees general practice’s share rise to 11% of the total NHS spend within the next five years – was praised by the RCGP and GPC, with GP leaders saying it could 'transform the delivery of general practice in Scotland'.

GP leaders across the UK have long lobbied for the share of NHS funding spent on general practice to be increased. UK GP funding currently sits at 8% of total NHS spending.

GP funding

In an apparent reference to plans set out by Jeremy Hunt to make England 'self-sufficient' for doctors, Ms Sturgeon told the conference that Scotland’s ‘heroic’ NHS staff had earned the nation's deepest gratitude for their work, ‘no matter where they were born’.

She added: ‘Over this parliament, we will increase health spending by almost £2bn. That's a necessary commitment but it is not sufficient. To make our NHS fit for the future we must reform as well as invest.

‘That will involve tough decisions – but the challenge of an ageing population demands it. The NHS of the future must be built on a real shift from acute care to primary and community care. So the commitment I am announcing today is a landmark one.

‘By the end of this parliament, we will increase spending on primary care services to 11% of the frontline NHS budget. That's what doctors have said is needed – and it is what we will deliver.

‘And let me be clear what that means. By 2021, an extra half billion pounds will be invested in our GP practices and health centres.

‘And it means, for the first time ever, that half of the health budget will be spent, not in acute hospitals, but in the community – delivering primary, community and social care.’

Extra £500m

Chairman of the Scottish GPC, Dr Alan McDevitt, said: ‘This is a hugely encouraging announcement that will provide grounds for real optimism in the future of general practice in Scotland.

‘The BMA is in the process of negotiating a new GP contract for Scotland based upon a vision of GPs working with an expanded primary care team, easing the incredible workload pressures facing GPs and ensuring that patients are seen by the most appropriate healthcare professional.

‘That step change in primary care will only be achieved with the right level of investment and it is clear from today's announcement that the Scottish government has listened to the voices of doctors and responded to our calls for action.’

RCGP Scotland chairman Dr Miles Mack said: ‘The announcement that GP surgeries and health centres will receive an extra half a billion pounds by 2021 has the potential to transform the delivery of general practice in Scotland.'

‘As always with these announcements, the devil will be in the detail, and we would want to see that money spent in general practice to tackle the fact that by 2021 there will be 828 fewer GPs in Scotland than we need. We also need to recruit extra members of the wider primary care team we need to be based in general practice, and immediate support for those practices who are struggling right now.'

‘It is welcome news indeed that Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish government now agree with the RCGP that there needs to be a huge investment into general practice We need to ensure a strong safe and sustainable future for the family doctor service for our patients, and we look forward to working with the Scottish government to help ensure this is the case.’

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