FUNDING levels for GP practices in Scotland are “grossly inadequate” to meet the needs of patients and must be given a “substantial increase”, according to a senior member of the British Medical Association.
Dr Mary Church, from the British Medical Association’s Scottish Council, told a conference that the continued fall in funding for GPs despite increasing workload and “unrelenting demand” was tipping the NHS into crisis.
“Young doctors appalled at the circumstances they may be asked to work under are choosing alternative careers or leaving the UK altogether,” she said.
An investigation earlier this year by the Evening News found at least 12 GP practices unable to take new patients – including some whose lists have been effectively closed for several months. At least one has been unable to accept new patients for more than a year.
It is estimated the Lothian region needs 33 new GP surgeries to cope with an ageing and growing population, with nearly a third of existing practice buildings needing extending or modernising, while GPs have complained they were struggling to cope with growing patient lists.
And Dr Church said: “The Scottish Government should not be complacent and pretend everything is rosy in the Scottish NHS, because it’s not. General Practice in England is in crisis now but those early signs which were ignored south of the border are all too evident in Scotland.”
The stark situation was backed by Dr Brian Keighley, who in his final speech as chairman of the BMA in Scotland said voters had to decide how much tax they are willing to pay to finance the NHS because it is currently “not sustainable”. He warned the health service was nearing crisis and said politicians would have to make some tough decisions if the service is to survive in the long term.
He said: “Scottish voters are facing a crucial vote on independence in September but, in truth, a far greater decision is facing them – how much tax do they want to pay for a health service, and depending on that decision, how comprehensive do they wish it to be?
“Voters must decide how much rationalisation of service they are prepared to accept, they must decide on the balance between convenience and clinical safety.
“It is now time for our politicians, whatever their party, whatever the outcome on the 18th of September, to recognise the vital role they must play.”