A £5m cut to a previously agreed sustainability fund for Scottish GP practices will negatively affect patient care, GP leaders have warned.
The Scottish Government and BMA agreed ahead of winter last year to a £30m pot of funding to aid practices in light of winter and Covid pressures, which was to be paid in two £15m instalments in December 2021 and April 2022.
However according to the BMA GPs were ‘left waiting’ for the April instalment and last week, the Scottish Government said that due to rising inflation only £10m would now be made available.
In a letter to the Government, chair of the BMA’s Scottish GP Committee Dr Andrew Buist said: ‘I want to be clear that this decision was not agreed with [GPC Scotland] and undermines our agreement with Government. It is not in any way acceptable.’
‘Our expectation is that practices will have taken Scottish Government’s promises at face value and put in place plans to use the funding that had been promised in a number of ways, including by making staffing decisions to support the continued support of [Community Treatment and Care] and pharmacotherapy services for patients,’ Dr Buist added.
RCGP Scotland joint chair Dr David Shackles said: ‘With demand reaching sky high levels and shortages of GPs and other staff becoming ever more concerning, our members report implementing emergency measures never before seen.
‘The first tranche of the sustainability payment has been highly beneficial to practices during a period of unprecedent demand upon primary care. Its reduction by a third will place additional strain on GPs, on the wider practice team, and ultimately will affect the services we are able to deliver to our patients.
‘It is a time of serious concern and worry for general practice.’
Dr Tyra M Smyth from Lanarkshire LMC said that the practices are ‘dismayed and angry’ at the cuts.
‘If practices lose funding to pay for staff, on a background of rising costs of simply keeping the lights on and rooms warm enough for face to face examination during the winter period, what would the government like us to do one third less of,’ she added.
Glasgow LMC said that ‘the lack of additional capacity will result in longer waits to see the GP’.
‘We have heard that some practices had already spent the money that was promised by the Government. This means more financial pressure at a time when practices’ expenses such as heat and lighting costs are escalating.’
Dr Chris Black from Ayrshire and Arran LMC added: ‘Morale is low and to receive a reduction in promised sustainability payments does affect this further and makes colleagues feel completely undervalued.’
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: ‘While rising inflation has had a significant impact on government costs and budgets, we are supporting GPs with all the direct funding we can to ease winter pressures.’
The money had been part of a £300m funding package for the NHS and social care announced by the Scottish Government last year, and had been intended to amount to £5 per patient for GP practices.