Speaking on ‘redesigning primary care’ in the Scottish parliament on Tuesday, Shona Robison said she was ‘determined’ to boost funding to primary care.
‘I am determined that primary care expenditure will rise,’ she told MPs. ‘We have already announced the new £60m primary care fund, and I want to go further than that, with the balance of health spending changing over time so that a greater percentage of funding goes to primary care. That change is not short-term, but will continue throughout the current process of transformation.’
She added that £20m of this fund will be used to ‘kick start’ tests for ‘fundamental changes’ to the GP contract scheduled to come into effect from April 2017.
A further £16m will be invested to recruit 140 additional full-time equivalent pharmacists, who will act as independent prescribers to help ‘free up GP time’.
Another £6m will be ploughed into GP IT systems to increase the availability of online appointments and repeat prescriptions.
Her comments followed an earlier announcement confirming that the QOF will be scrapped from the Scottish contract from 2016, ahead of this ‘transformative’ new GP contract being introduced.
The Scottish government has since revealed in its 2016/17 budget that NHS spending will increase by over £500m next year.
Recent statistics have shown that, although the Scottish general practice workforce has increased by 9% since 2005, patients over 75 – who account for a significant portion of GP workload – have increased by 18% over the same timeframe.
‘As we move forward into next year, health and social care integration is presenting us with huge opportunities to do things differently,’ Ms Robison said.
‘My vision is of primary and community care being very much at the heart of our system, with highly-skilled multidisciplinary teams working both in and out of hours with a wide range of services tailored to meet needs in the local area.
‘We absolutely value GPs incredibly highly, we want them to stay in the profession. The time has come to talk up general practice to encourage doctors to stay and students to pick it up.
‘I think the future for GPs lies in them having high quality jobs focusing on undifferentiated presentations, working out who may need further investigation or referral, caring for people with multiple conditions, and of course quality and leadership.’