A ‘reckless’ and ‘premature’ motion calling for the ‘return to normal’ GP services with more face-to-face appointments has failed to pass a vote in the Scottish Parliament.
Conservative MSP Annie Wells tabled a motion on Wednesday last week to push the Scottish Government to set a ‘target date’ for GPs to return to pre-pandemic services.
During the debate, Ms Wells said that while GPs face ‘overwhelming demands’, ‘video consultations should not become the default’.
Health secretary Humza Yousaf called the motion ‘as reckless as it is premature’, and amended it by removing the need for a timeline. The amended motion was passed by 89 votes to 30.
Dr Sandesh Gulhane, MSP and a GP in Glasgow, said the NHS in Scotland is ‘overrun’ due to ‘systemic failures of Government’, adding that GPs across the country are ‘pulling out all the stops’.
Dr Chris Williams, joint chair of RCGP Scotland, said: ‘We recognise that many patients prefer face to face appointments; indeed, many GPs prefer to deliver care in this way too. RCGP Scotland is clear that the future of general practice should be a mixed model of remote and face to face appointments that meet the needs of the individual patient.
‘While we continue to work towards this favoured method of delivering GP services, we cannot lose sight of the fact that our health service is still operating under extremely difficult circumstances and unfortunately it simply isn’t possible to deliver to the extent that we would like at the moment.
‘General practice is currently experiencing unprecedented workload demands and with winter around the corner, these demands will undoubtedly increase. Earlier this year, a survey of our members reported that 73% of respondents are concerned that their workload will negatively affect their ability to deliver care for their patients this winter.’
It comes as England’s health secretary Sajid Javid claimed it was ‘high time’ GPs start offering more face-to-face appointments, warning that he intends ‘to do a lot more about it’.
A Pulse survey of 1,000 GPs found that half say that a return to the number of face-to-face appointments would not be possible, and eight in ten say it is not necessary.
Some practices in Scotland are having to divert phone calls due to increased demand.