Primary care in Scotland is set to receive a ‘relatively small’ £72 million investment in 2017/18 under plans announced in the draft budget on Thursday.
Finance secretary Derek Mackay made the pledge as part of £304 million in resource funding for the NHS, £120 million above inflation and ‘a significant step towards the commitment of an extra £500 million above inflation over this Parliament’.
The Scottish government has proposed to ‘transform primary care and GP services’, including investing in multi-disciplinary teams working with GPs.
The budget also allocates £10m to implement the recommendations of the National Review of Primary Care Out of Hours Services.
Mental health services are also set to receive a £150m funding boost over the next five years with £10m to test new models of support in primary care.
‘This budget also delivers the Government’s commitment to secure the future of Scotland’s health service,’ said Mr Mackay.
Scottish GPC chair Dr Alan McDevitt said the £72m investment in primary care was a ‘small step’ towards addressing the problems facing general practice in Scotland.
‘However the real test will be in making sure that this investment actually provides support to general practice and makes a difference to the workload pressures we are currently facing.’
He pointed to a recent BMA figures which showed almost a third of practices reporting at least one vacancy as evidence that practices are under pressure like never before.
‘It is essential that this investment provides direct support to GP practices and helps to once again make being a GP an attractive option for those starting a career in medicine.’
He added that significantly more resources will be needed to implement the plans for a wider team of healthcare professionals working in primary care that are currently being ironed out as part of new GP contract negotiations.
RCGP Scotland said the relatively small upturn in funding share could be a sign the crisis in general practice is finally being recognised.
Dr Miles Mack, chair of RCGP Scotland, said: ‘Having suffered 11 years of cuts to the percentage share of NHS Scotland funding delivered to general practice, it is encouraging to see that trend reversed, no matter how relatively small the change may be.
‘We will need more than encouragement, however, if the long term future of the general practice service is to be secured for the future.’
He added that while he was pleased to see the promise for an extra half a billion pounds by 2021 starting to be delivered, it needs to be made clear there is still a ‘long way to go’ with practices reporting four-week waits for appointments and GPs working 12-hour days.
‘We will be meeting with Scottish Government next week to discuss how general practice can be further protected and can build on this announcement.’
But it comes as more than a third of GPs in Scotland are planning to retire from general practice within the next five years, according to the BMA.
A survey of 900 GPs done in the past couple of months found 35% of respondents are planning to retire by 2021.