MEDICAL leaders have warned a £50 million cash boost from the Scottish Government may not go far enough to tackle the spiralling GP recruitment crisis.
Almost half of the money from the new primary care fund – which will be delivered over the next three years – will go towards piloting new ways of working while just £2.5m will go towards recruitment and retention of staff.
Surgeries in Lothian have struggled to cope with demand, with residents waiting up to three weeks for an appointment in Ratho and Bonnyrigg.
A string of practices have been forced to temporarily close their lists while more than 2000 Leith residents were forced to switch GP as Leith Links Medical Centre redrew its boundaries as it was unable to recruit enough doctors. The British Medical Association (BMA) Scotland has previously warned that the nation could face a shortfall of up to 900 GPs by 2020.
Health Secretary Shona Robison said that new investment was the beginning of the process towards designing primary care services for the future. She said: “Primary care services play a hugely important role in looking after the health of the nation, and GPs in particular are vital in delivering frontline healthcare services.
“However, I acknowledge that many GPs find workload and recruitment issues challenging, and we’ll keep working to address this.”
There was widespread support for the plans to invest £16.2m on 140 new pharmacists with advanced clinical training, who would work with practices to reduce the burden on GPs. A further £10m will be invested in primary care mental health services to target mental health needs in the community. The Health Secretary also promised a completely new GP contract to be in place by 2017.
Dr Elaine McNaughton, RCGP Scotland deputy chair of policy, said the investment met some recommendations in its report – A blueprint for Scottish General Practice – released this week, but “the workforce situation requires a much larger response”.
She said: “A declared indication of investment in general practice is very welcome. However, we have reservations about how sufficient these measures will be in meeting the recommendations outlined in [our] blueprint for Scottish general practice. Although we are keen to support any investment to increase recruitment, we also need to see additional action to address the retention of current GPs who may otherwise leave the profession, and to encourage those who have already left to return.”
Scottish Conservative health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said: “The current model is failing, with GPs giving up and new doctors staying abroad. We need a model which encourages GPs to stay and others to return to Scotland.”