SNP predicts widening gap in GP policy north of the border
Exclusive General practice in Scotland will continue to take an increasingly divergent approach to that in England following the general election on 8 June, according to the Scottish National Party.
The party’s Westminster health spokesperson Dr Philippa Whitford said England is wasting money by making health service providers compete with one another for contracts.
She said the situation, which has already seen the BMA negotiate a separate GP contract for Scotland, comes despite the countries facing the same challenges of an ageing population, increasing demand and workforce shortages.
She told Pulse: ‘Since the introduction of the Health and Social Care Act, the NHS has been in debt because this is a ridiculously expensive way to run a healthcare system.’
She said in many cases ‘it still says NHS on the building’ but it is run by large corporations ‘there to make a profit’.
Dr Whitford said that instead of expensive tendering processes, the SNP will spend money on staff and direct funding of NHS services.
She said: ‘It undermines cooperation and it is a ridiculous waste of money. Why not just employ more people at the frontline?’
Asked about the SNP’s pledges for general practice, Dr Whitford further said: ‘The GP contract is currently under negotiation but the Scottish Government has committed to reversing the decline in the share of the health budget that general practice has had and bringing it up to 11% by the end of the parliament.’
According to Dr Whitford, the most pressing matter to resolve is a the GP workforce shortage, with the SNP concerned that Britain leaving the EU could further worsen the situation.
She said: ‘The idea that Brexit will lead to EU nationals already working here being driven out or people not being allowed to come here to work is something that really gives us cause for concern.’
Q&A with Dr Philippa Whitford
What are SNP's policies for general practice?
The GP contract is currently under negotiation but the Scottish Government has committed to reversing the decline in the share of the health budget that general practice has had and bringing it up to 11% by the end of parliament.
We are also working on our own new models of care - for example the Deep End Practices Pioneer Scheme. One idea that is being trialled is that people who are registered as being multimorbid automatically get a longer appointment with a GP and that is beginning to reduce emergency admissions so they are now looking at rolling that out further.
What will you do to address the GP workforce shortage?
I can see that in my local area there seems to have been quite a dramatic change in the past five years. We have to make sure that students and foundation years have experience of primary care and rural practice.
We are giving trainees extra funding for working in practices that have struggled to recruit.
I would like to see health boards recruiting locums because with their buying power they might be able to get a better deal. I don’t think we have the scale of practices handing back contracts to health boards yet and we do have the highest number of GPs per head of the population but general practice is under pressure.
What is your policy on mental health?
We have just published our mental health strategy and we have a minister for mental health, which gives it a lot more prominence. Our strategy recognises the importance of investing in child and adolescent mental health services. What is very obvious is that in deprived areas is the circle between mental and physical health.