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First minister pledges extra £500m for general practice in Scotland

First minister Nicola Sturgeon has pledged an extra £500m in funding for general practice in Scotland by 2020/21.

GP leaders welcomed the announcement, which is set to bring primary care funding to 11% of the NHS total budget in Scotland.

Ms Sturgeon said her ‘landmark’ announcement reflected the Scottish Government’s commitment to shift the balance of the NHS away from hospitals. 

Addressing the SNP annual conference on the weekend, she said: ‘The commitment I am announcing today is a landmark one. By the end of this parliament, we will increase spending on primary care services to 11% of the frontline NHS budget.

‘That’s what doctors have said is needed. And it is what we will deliver. And let me be clear what that means. By 2021, an extra half billion pounds will be invested in our GP practices and health centres.’

Including community and social care, this would mean half of health and care funding spent out on non-hospital services for the first time, she added.

She said: ‘And it means, for the first time ever, that half of the health budget will be spent, not in acute hospitals, but in the community – delivering primary, community and social care.’

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Scottish GPC chair Dr Alan McDevitt said it was ‘a hugely encouraging announcement that will provide grounds for real optimism in the future of general practice in Scotland’.

He said: ‘The BMA is in the process of negotiating a new GP contract for Scotland based upon a vision of GPs working with an expanded primary care team, easing the incredible workload pressures facing GPs and ensuring that patients are seen by the most appropriate healthcare professional.

‘That step change in primary care will only be achieved with the right level of investment and it is clear from today’s announcement that the Scottish Government has listened to the voices of doctors and responded to our calls for action.’

According to Dr McDevitt there is ‘broad consensus across the political spectrum’ in Scotland on the way forward for general practice, with the GPC ‘looking forward’ to ‘working with the Scottish Government on how these resources will be used to provide the support that GPs and our patients need’.

RCGP Scotland chair Dr Miles Mack said: ‘The announcement that GP surgeries and health centres will receive an extra half a billion pounds by 2021 has the potential to transform the delivery of general practice in Scotland.’

But he added the caveat that, ‘as always with these announcements, the devil will be in the detail, and we would want to see that money spent in general practice to tackle the fact that by 2021 there will be 828 fewer GPs in Scotland than we need’.

‘We also need to recruit extra members of the wider primary care team we need to be based in general practice, and immediate support for those practices who are struggling right now,’ he said.