Scottish government views GPs as dispensable, RCGP warns

The Scottish government views general practice as 'dispensable' and plans to erode its role in the NHS, RCGP Scotland has warned, as plans emerged to increase the share of NHS funding spent on secondary care.

RCGP Scotland chairman Dr Miles Mack
RCGP Scotland chairman Dr Miles Mack

The Scottish government’s draft budget for 2016/17 sets out plans for a real terms funding boost for general practice of 1.9%, while territorial health boards receive a 3.8% uplift.

RCGP Scotland chairman Dr Miles Mack said the move shows that the government deems general practice ‘to be dispensable in its current form’, and appeared to be implementing a ‘set strategy to erode or end’ the current role of the GP.

Scottish health secretary Shona Robison denied the claims, pointing out that the Scottish government is ‘committed to supporting and enhancing’ primary care and providing more funding.

Scottish general practice

But Dr Mack said: ‘It is now clear that the Scottish government’s true vision is one in which the public should expect to get by without GPs as their prime provider of care.

‘For over two years, RCGP Scotland has called for 11% of NHS Scotland spending to resource general practice. We have received reassurance after reassurance that further funding for general practice would be forthcoming until it reached a level appropriate to patient need.

‘Instead, we witness a further reduction and an ever increasing gap between funding for general practice and that for other areas of healthcare.’

Just 5.6% of the overall £13bn health budget – some £723m – will be allocated to general practice, the specialty responsible for ‘90% of patient contact with the NHS’. This money must stretch to deal with a growing and ageing population, the effects of medical inflation and a rising GP workforce crisis, warned Dr Mack.

GP funding

Ms Robison said: ‘The Scottish government is committed to supporting and enhancing primary care and the work of GPs. To say the service is dispensable or that services are being eroded is wrong.

‘Funding for GP services has increased each year under this government, rising from £705m in 2007/8 to £853m in 2014/15. The new £45m primary care fund in the 2016/17 draft budget equates to an increase for primary care of over 6% above the investment in the GP contract from the Scottish government.

‘This percentage uplift for primary care alone exceeds both the 5.5% uplift that we are giving to territorial health boards, and the 3.3% overall increase in health resource spending from the Scottish government.’

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