More funding needed to tackle health inequalities and digital poverty, says top GP

More funding is needed to help GPs tackle health inequalities and digital poverty, the Royal College of GPs has said.

Wednesday, 7th April 2021, 12:30 pm
Updated Wednesday, 7th April 2021, 12:30 pm

Dr Catriona Morton, Deputy Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners in Scotland (RCGP) and a GP based in Craigmillar, Edinburgh, said the pandemic has exacerbated issues already present in the NHS.

This includes health inequalities in deprived areas, and a lack of access to digital health services, especially important during the pandemic, and mostly impacting poorer areas.

She called for 11 per cent of the NHS budget to be devoted to primary care, as well as an extra 800 whole-time-equivalent GPs.

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Dr Catriona Morton
Dr Catriona Morton

“Health inequalities are stark in Scotland and about the worst in Europe,” she said.

"Covid-19 has made some of those more obvious: the poorest Scots are twice as likely to die from the infection than the wealthiest, and more likely to suffer from ongoing symptoms, such as post-Covid syndrome (Long-Covid), after the infection, too.

"These sorts of differences in health have existed for a long time and we need to always consider how well our population can access quality health services when, and where, they need them.

"The pandemic has emphasised how communities have become increasingly sensitive to digital poverty, with many people struggling without computer and device access, and patients and practice teams deserve better. We need to find new ways of addressing this.”

The Scottish Government announced a £1.9 billion investment in primary care as part of this year’s budget. A target to recruit 800 more GPs in Scotland within the next decade was set in 2017 in the face of staff shortages.

Dr Morton called on the next Scottish Government to engage in a “national conversation” with the public about GP services and how funding resources should be allocated.

Dr Morton said: “GPs are the cornerstone of the NHS and the RCGP supports the vision of providing healthcare free, wherever needed.

“We would like the Scottish Government to start a ‘national conversation’ with the public, about access to General Practice and how that should be shaped in line with the resource available to us.”

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