Scotland’s family doctors have warned the First Minister that GP surgeries will continue to close and patients’ lives will be put at risk unless more cash is invested in practices and health centres.
In a hard-hitting consultation paper the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) Scotland describe patients queuing outside practices just to register with a doctor and warn that plans for nurse practitioners to care for individuals without doctor support puts people at risk.
They are urging the Scottish Government to honour what they say is a pledge to invest £500m additional funds directly into GP services by 2021. The RCGP Scotland predicts a shortfall of 828 GPs across Scotland by 2021 and highlight 2,800 nursing vacancies and what they claim is the failure of health boards to recruit sufficient numbers of pharmacists trained to work in general practices. The concerns were raised in a submission to the Scottish Government consultation on technology and innovation in the NHS. And the college also warns against successful general practice “babies” not being “thrown out with the bath water” amid research aimed at providing new models of care. A section of the paper calls for clarification to ensure that only GPs can be allowed to perform the role of doctors and says that in proposed new models of care, members of the wider multidisciplinary team cannot be seen as a substitute for GPs. Rising workloads, a shortage of doctors and declining resources are cited by the college as putting “intolerable” pressure on GPs.
The paper states: “General practice is in severe need of a clear, positive future, illustrated by adequate government investment, if it is to attract sufficient numbers of medical graduates to general practice speciality training.
“If the under-funding and confusion continues we will keep witnessing a considerable number of general practices closing and transferring the running of their practices to Health Boards due to insufficient resource through which to remain solvent. Patients will continue to be found queuing outside practices for the uncertain opportunity merely to register with a GP.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Government set out the funding levels for primary care to be delivered by 2021.
He said: “As the First Minister announced last year, a further £500 million will be invested in primary care by the end of this parliament. This spending increase in primary care, to 11 per cent of the frontline NHS budget, will support the development of a multi-disciplinary approach, with increased staffing as well as investment in GP services and health centres.”
Shadow Health Secretary Miles Briggs MSP, said: “The RCGP is right to speak out about the immense pressure on GP services across Scotland as our population increases and demand grows, not least among our rising elderly population. Unless the Scottish Government gets to grips with the situation then, as they say, we will see more and more examples of worried patients queuing just to register with a GP.”