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Scottish Government scraps ‘short-term’ £40m fund for £50m three-year cycle

The Scottish Government has announced a £50m fund to be spread over three years for GP recruitment and retention, overhauling the one-year £40m fund it had previously announced.

Scottish health secretary Shona Robison said today that £50m will be invested to address immediate issues, including recruiting up to 140 pharmacists to work with GPs and a £2.5m fund to help with GP recruitment and retention.

But the RCGP said it had ‘reservations’ about how much the plans can help general practice.

Ms Robison revealed the switch away from the one-year £40m fund to Pulse earlier in the month, arguing that the proposal from her predecessor Alex Neil was short term.

Speaking about the new cash injection for primary care, Ms Robison said. ‘I have been clear that I want to work with professionals across the health service, as well as patients and the public, to redesign our primary care services.

‘That engagement has seen this funding go further than what was previously announced, expanding this to a three-year fund, rather than a one-off investment.’

Dr Elaine McNaughton, deputy chair (policy) of RCGP Scotland, said the Scottish Government seemed to have adopted some of the recommendations contained in RCGP Scotland’s A blueprint for Scottish general practice.

However, she believes that the ‘workforce situation requires a much larger response’.

She said: ‘A declared indication of investment in general practice is very welcome. However, we have reservations about how sufficient these measures will be in meeting the recommendations outlined in our blueprint.’

Where the funding is going

The Primary care fund will be allocated to a number of key projects, including:

 * Primary care transformation fund: £20.5m will be allocated over the next three years to GP practices to prototype the new vision for the GP contract, including those wishing to use new ways of working to address current demand.

* Pharmacist independent prescribers: £16.2m will be allocated to recruit up to 140 new pharmacists, with advanced clinical skills training, who will work directly with GP practices to support the care of patients with long-term conditions and also free up GP time to spend with other patients.

* GP recruitment and retention programme: £2.5m will be invested in a three-year programme including proposals to increase the number of medical students choosing to go into GP training, as well as encouraging those wanting to work in rural and economically deprived areas. The Scottish Government will also continue its support for GPs wishing to return to the profession.

* Digital services development fund: £6m will be allocated to support and accelerate the use of digital service by GP practices, including funding the development of online appointment booking and webGP.

* Leadership programme for GPs: £1.05m will be used to further develop work already underway between the RCGP, NHS Education for Scotland and the Scottish Social Services Council to develop a local leadership development and networking programme.

* Scottish school of primary care: £1.25m will be invested in the Scottish School of Primary Care – a virtual school that encourages and co-ordinates a cohesive programme of research and training of primary care in Scotland.