General Practice (Funding)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 13th June 2019.

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Photo of Alison Johnstone Alison Johnstone Green

3. Like me, the First Minister will have received hundreds of emails from constituents this week backing calls for 11 per cent of national health service funding to go to general practice, to enable our local surgeries to employ more doctors and nurses, to provide longer appointments, and to tackle the health inequality that continues to blight Scotland.

In April, Parliament voted for a Green motion demanding an urgent review of GP recruitment, resources and funding. When will the Scottish Government respect the will of Parliament and launch such a review?

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

We are taking a range of actions to boost recruitment into general practice. The Government is committed to increasing the proportion of funding going to primary care services to 11 per cent and half of that will go to GPs in particular, but of course GPs do not work in isolation. Increasingly, it is the entire primary care team that is important in terms of delivering the services that people need in communities, and shifting the balance of care from acute services to primary care.

We continue to work to achieve that aim and to work on the different actions that we are taking to ensure that we are recruiting the right number of people, not just into general practice but into different professions across our health service.

Photo of Alison Johnstone Alison Johnstone Green

The fact is that the overwhelming majority of patient contacts are made with our GPs, yet they receive less than 8 per cent of the NHS budget. Although 11 per cent of the budget may be going to primary care, the call is for 11 per cent to go to GP practices. They are overstretched and underresourced. A quarter of GPs do not think that they will be in general practice five years from now and the Royal College of General Practitioners is warning that this untenable situation is putting patient safety at risk.

If we want to look after people in their homes and communities rather than in our hospitals, we need more GPs. The RCGP says that surgeries will struggle to deliver the healthcare that we need without at least 11 per cent of the NHS budget. Are the GPs wrong?

The First Minister:

We continue to talk to and work with GPs. I understand that the health secretary will meet the RCGP shortly to have further discussions about its report. We are taking a range of actions on recruitment. The number of trainee doctors, for example, has increased by more than 10 per cent since 2007 and the majority of new places are focused on primary care and general practice. The number of trainee GPs in 2018 was at its highest level for over a decade.

We will continue to take those actions.

We have made a commitment to increase the share of funding going to primary care and we will meet that commitment. General practice is a vital part of that but—as anybody who understands how the health service works will know, and I know that Alison Johnstone knows this—general practice does not work in isolation. It is part of a multidisciplinary team. Increasing the share of funding going to primary care helps not just the entirety of the primary care team but general practice, because tasks that might currently be done by GPs can be done by other members of the team. This is an important commitment and we will continue to make progress in meeting it.