At £28-35 per average consultation, general practice is exceptionally good value and is well placed in the heart of the community. GPs have a broad set of skills which include being able to manage risk and lead innovation and development within the practice team. These are unique advantages which mean that general practice has an important contribution to make to the future of primary care in Scotland.
During a time of significant financial constraint there are some serious and significant health challenges for Scotland which should still stay at the forefront of our attention
Scotland still has major health inequalities. People in deprived areas have much higher levels of alcohol and drug abuse, smoking, mental health problems and obesity. Despite concerted efforts by health organisations and the Scottish Government we have not yet found the right formula to truly tackle this issue.
Although we are on the right track with in-depth research and recommendations put forward by the College and others, work must continue if we are to get real solutions in place. Minimum pricing per unit of alcohol would make a significant contribution to this problem. So would longer consultations in areas of serious deprivation; 10 minutes with a GP is simply not long enough.
Chronic illnesses like diabetes, high blood pressure and arthritis are also on the increase in all areas as people live longer. Our health services need to be flexible and respond to this changing demography. GPs need longer training to reflect this; from three years to five.
We still have the shortest training period of any medical specialty although the job is becoming increasingly complex. We must also prioritise action to improve end of life care, in particular looking at how to mainstream best practice..
A hugely important and cost effective tool for improvement is the use of patient groups in the practice. It is estimated that only about 40% of practices in Scotland have a patient group. They can offer great insight into the needs of the local community and provide an invaluable connection for direct feedback.
Patients need better access to information and 'sign-posting' to support services such as counselling; patient groups can help develop these tools which can keep the vital link between general practice and the community alive.
The RCGP Scotland manifesto is available online at www.rcgp-scotland.org.uk
Dr John Gillies is Chair of RCGP Scotland