General practice has been ‘neglected’ in the Scottish Government’s plan for healthcare over winter, the RCGP has complained.
Last week, the Scottish Government announced a £50m funding boost to drive recruitment to the ambulance service, and £12m in additional funding to expand the Hospital at Home service.
The country’s new health and social care winter-preparedness plan focused on taking a ‘whole system’ approach, ensuring patients receive care at home where appropriate, and growing the workforce.
However, RCGP Scotland’s joint chair Dr Chris Williams said the plan puts more demands on GPs ‘without recognition, let alone resource’.
He said the Government’s whole system approach ‘has neglected one of the fundamental building blocks of the NHS’.
Last month, RCGP chair Professor Kamila Hawthorne said it was ‘disappointing’ that general practice was not included in the newly announced £200m funding pot aimed at easing winter pressures in England.
The Scottish Government’s plan recognised the high demand for GP appointments last winter, but made no specific announcements for general practice,
Its first priority highlighted the need for patients to be treated at home or as close to home as possible, which included the need to use ‘telecare and digital technology’ to alert health professionals when a person needs support, as well as ‘proactively’ supporting those at highest risk of hospital admission.
Another priority centred on patient communications, and encouraged GPs and other healthcare professionals to ‘redirect and signpost people to the appropriate service for their needs’.
Dr Williams said: ‘Once again general practice feels culturally and systematically neglected in the planning for the winter surge.
‘Priority one demands and expectations, including for mental health and care in the community which GPs struggle to deliver year-round in the current pressures, are laid at our door without recognition, let alone resource.’
He added: ‘A focus on emergency care, while critical, must be paired with an understanding of the fundamental role of primary care.
‘For the majority of patients, their care lies in general practice. Hospital at Home is a small part of that, and it is disappointing not to see the additional funding pots go to the many, or the most vulnerable.’
When the plan was announced last week, Scottish health secretary Michael Matheson said: ‘We are in no doubt that this winter will be extremely challenging for our health and social care system.
‘Our winter plan builds on the lessons we have learned from previous years and preparations have been on-going since spring.
‘Our whole system approach is based on ensuring people can access the care that is right for them – at the right time and in the right place.’
Last month, the Scottish Government announced it will increase core GP funding by £60.4m in order for practices to award a 6% uplift to staff – but the BMA warned this was not sufficient.