Primary care in Scotland will receive a financial boost in 2017/18, as announced in the latest budget, but some are concerned about the relatively small size of this cash injection.
Finance secretary Derek Mackay announced an increase to funding of £72 million, part of an overall £304 million in resource funding for the NHS.
Government representatives pointed out that this is £120 million above inflation.
Mackay hailed this as “a significant step towards the commitment of an extra £500 million above inflation over this Parliament. This budget also delivers the Government’s commitment to secure the future of Scotland’s health service”.
Additionally, £10 million has been promised with the intention of implementing the recommendations of the National Review of Primary Care Out of Hours Services.
Scottish GPC chair Dr Alan McDevitt welcomed the news, but also considered it to be a mere stepping stone to a healthier system.
“The real test will be in making sure that this investment actually provides support to general practice and makes a difference to the workload pressures we are currently facing. It is essential that this investment provides direct support to GP practices and helps to once again make being a GP an attractive option for those starting a career in medicine”.
McDevitt was particularly keen for resources to be invested to assist with the implementation of plans for a wider team of healthcare professionals working in primary care.
Dr Miles Mack, chair of RCGP Scotland, commented that the organisation hopes that the crisis in general practice is now being acknowledged by the government.
“Having suffered 11 years of cuts to the percentage share of NHS Scotland funding delivered to general practice, it is encouraging to see that trend reversed, no matter how relatively small the change may be. We will need more than encouragement, however, if the long term future of the general practice service is to be secured for the future”.
But Mack also believes that there is a long way to go, with practices reporting four-week waits for appointments and GPs working 12-hour days.
“We will be meeting with Scottish Government next week to discuss how general practice can be further protected and can build on this announcement,” Mack stated.
A recent survey of 900 GPs found that 35% are planning to retire by the end of the decade.