Scotland

Funding boost of £40m for deprived area and rural GPs

doctor writing on prescription Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption The money will be targeted at GPs facing particular pressures

An additional £40m is being made available to help GP practices in the most deprived areas of Scotland.

The funding is part of the Scottish government's budget for next year.

It will also help GPs working in remote rural communities and those looking after a significant proportion of very elderly patients.

The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) has warned a lack of adequate funding for GPs is putting patients at risk.

The government's overall budget for GP and primary care service in the forthcoming financial year is £709m, which includes a £130m integration fund used to support the integration of health and social care services.

The announcement of this latest funding increases that sum by a further £40m.

'Changing needs'

Health Secretary Alex Neil said the money was aimed at helping local doctors meet the changing demographics of the Scottish population.

Practices facing particular pressures will get additional funding.

It will be spent on reducing health inequalities, especially in deprived areas of Glasgow and island and rural communities.

Mr Neil said: "Despite substantial Westminster cuts to Scotland's budget, we've worked with health boards to ensure that there is now more money than ever being invested into local GP services.

"Our investment in primary care has seen the number of GPs in Scotland increase by 5.7% under this government, and this year we've ensured a GP pay increase and agreed a new three-year GP contract that will bring a period of stability for services.

"However, I believe we can go further and utilising the new £40m primary care development fund we can ensure our GPs and primary care professionals can help evolve our health service to meet the changing needs of the people of Scotland."

He added: "GPs and primary care professionals will be vital to ensuring that health and social care are effectively integrated from April next year, and this new investment will help them design and implement primary care services that best meet the needs of their communities."

'Demands of future'

BMA Scotland said the population was growing and changing demography meant that patients were older and had more complex care needs.

Dr Alan McDevitt, chairman of the BMA's Scottish GP committee said: "The BMA is more than willing to work with the Scottish government to explore how best we transform Scottish general practice to meet the demands of the future but it will require significant investment beyond that announced today; not just in increasing the GP workforce, but supporting them with practice based healthcare professionals, investing in better premises and IT to meet the growing needs of patients.

"GPs are excellent at innovating and looking for new solutions to emerging challenges and I will work with the Scottish government to ensure this new development fund can be most effectively invested in general practice and primary care."

A study, published at the weekend by the RCGP, suggested one in four Scots cannot get an appointment with their GP within a week.

The organisation which represents GPs also claimed long waiting times for appointments, short consultations and weakening relationships between doctors and patients were contributing to a "crisis in general practice".

RCGP Scotland is due to deliver a petition to First Minister Alex Salmond later calling for GPs to be given a greater share of NHS funding.

Chairman, Dr John Gillies, welcomed the additional investment for those working in some deprived and rural areas but said more had to be done.

"We need a strong GP service to look after people when they are home from hospital and ensure they can be discharged earlier, safely and securely," he told BBC Radio Scotland.

"The whole of the service needs to be reshaped around primary care and we feel this is a start."

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