The college’s Scotland chairman Dr Miles Mack intervened in a row over funding for the service after Scottish finance minister John Swinney was challenged in the Holyrood parliament over the falling share of NHS funding spent on primary care. The minister told MSPs he would reflect on the college’s concerns that GPs’ share of the NHS budget was due to fall further.
Dr Mack said that appropriate funding for general practice was central to rebuilding the service in line with the new National Clinical Strategy published by the Scottish government last week.
‘£1.6bn has been cut from the budget of general practice that should have been invested in GPs, staff and infrastructure,' he said. ‘Instead we have a recruitment crisis and patients waiting three weeks for an appointment with their family doctor.’
Dr Mack said there had now been a ‘full decade of cuts to the percentage share general practice receives from NHS Scotland spending’.
The college’s analysis suggested GPs' share was now at 7.4%, down from 9.8% in 2005/6, and projected to fall further in the draft budget.
‘£1.6bn very obviously means fewer GPs, longer waiting times to see them and necessarily reduced services when patients finally get there,’ said Dr Mack.
Speaking in the Scottish parliament earlier this month the deputy first minister and finance chief Mr Swinney said the draft budget planned to increase primary care funding to £780.1m, including £45m for a development fund, providing additional resources for general practice.
Primary care reforms
‘The Scottish government is also working to transform primary care, including developing new ways of working with multidisciplinary teams, reducing bureaucracy and working constructively with the GP workforce to ensure that services are fit for the future and meet the needs of the people of Scotland,' said Mr Swinney.
Challenged by Labour’s Siobhan McMahon over primary care's falling share of the NHS’s budget, Mr Swinney said he ‘recognise[d] the importance’ of the issue
‘We engage actively with the RCGP on such questions, and I know that those issues have been aired in public. I will certainly reflect on the issues that the RCGP has raised in finalising the budget,' the minister added.
But Dr Mack said the service could not continue with a falling share of the budget.
‘Without an increase in funding, Scottish government’s plans for more community based care will not be met and patient care and safety will suffer.’
The RCGP is calling for general practice to recive 11% of the total NHS budget.
Dr Mack said: ‘An extra 0.5% of NHS Scotland spending in 2016/17, provided directly to grassroots GP services, will go a long way to getting a positive message across, as a first step in regular, incremental increases towards the necessary 11%. Without such a halt to cuts, £1.6bn worth of loss to patients will only be the beginning.’
Health secretary Shona Robison said: 'These claims do not reflect the reality – which is that funding for GPs has actually increased each year under this Government, rising from £704.61 million in 2007-08 to £852.57 million in 2014-15 – at the same time as we have increased the overall NHS budget in Scotland to £13 billion a year.
'Scotland has the highest number of GPs per head of the population of the four UK countries and under this Government the number of GPs working in Scotland has increased by seven per cent.'