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Scottish Government sees general practice as ‘dispensable’, says RCGP

The chair of RCGP Scotland, Dr Miles Mack, has said that the Scottish Government deems general practice to be ‘dispensable’, in one of the strongest criticisms yet from the college.

Dr Mack said that the Government seems to have a ‘set strategy to erode or end the current role of the GP in family life’.

He made the claims in response to an RCGP Scotland analysis of the Scottish Government’s draft budget for 2016/17, which shows a reduction in funding for general practice compared with other areas of healthcare.

Their analysis showed that the real-terms percentage increase for general practice is 1.9%, compared with 3.8% for health boards. 

Dr Mack said: ’Now that we have asked for and gained clarity on 2016/17’s provision for general practice, this draft budget, as we feared, confirms that view. General practice has been deemed to be dispensable in its current form.’

He also warned that patients’ access to GPs will get worse, saying that ‘patients have every right to worry’ with the combination of a rising population and the workforce crisis. He warned that ‘the tipping point is passing rapidly by and increasingly I fear that is deemed acceptable by our elected leaders’.

Dr Mack added: ‘The constant direction of funding to secondary care suggests hospital treatment is preferred and the “2020 vision” of “care at home or in a homely setting” will remain only that.’

The RCGP Scotland chair also slammed the Scottish Government over its recruitment of GPs: ‘The public are repetitively told that Scotland has 7% more GPs since this Government came to power.

’In reality, the Scottish Government’s own figures show they delivered the equivalent of only 35 extra GPs in the whole five years between 2009 and 2013.’

Health minister Shona Robison said: ’The Scottish Government is committed to supporting and enhancing primary care and the work of GPs. To say the service is dispensable or that services are being eroded is wrong.

’Funding for GP services has increased each year under this Government, rising from £704.61 million in 2007/08 to £852.57 million in 2014/15. The new £45 million Primary Care Fund in the 2016/17 draft budget, equates to an increase for primary care of over 6% above the investment in the GP contract from the Scottish Government.

’This percentage uplift for primary care alone exceeds both the 5.5% uplift that we are giving to territorial health boards, and the 3.3% overall increase in health resource spending from the Scottish Government.’