As a member of the Health and Sport Committee, I offer my thanks to the clerks, everyone who gave evidence to the committee, and my fellow committee members for their hard work in contributing to the second phase of the inquiry.
We recognised that there have been multiple developments in primary care services in recent times, so we agreed that it was appropriate for us to look at the provision of services and approaches. Our principal aim was to consider whether they were meeting current needs and how they should be provided in the future.
It is clear that primary care requires a radical revision to ensure that everyone receives the primary care that they want and need for the next generation and beyond. A focus on prevention needs to be prioritised and mainstreamed across all areas of the health service and beyond.
The inquiry was driven by our work in hearing from the public what primary care services they want and need. When we began the second phase, the world was a very different place and the delivery of primary care has—negatively and constructively—been significantly affected by Covid-19. The many challenges that the pandemic has presented have advanced positive and potentially sustainable changes in primary care.
Across our society, largely thanks to technology, the 9-to-5 work day is quickly becoming obsolete, and the current delivery methods and model of 9-to-5 primary care services, five days a week, are no different—they are not keeping pace with modern living.
The necessity of finding new ways of working has led to the discovery of many benefits for patients and practitioners. It is recognised that digital services can bring many exciting opportunities, and it is vital that they are embraced. They include the continued provision of phone and video consultations, when appropriate, because they offer greater patient choice and more flexibility in people’s day-to-day lives, and they reduce the need to travel. I welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment to improving IT and to supporting health boards in the transition.
During our evidence sessions, the committee heard from panel members who recognised and stressed that primary care services do not operate in isolation from other local services and environments, and who were keen to see a community-wide approach to wellbeing. Indeed, that vision is shared by the Scottish Government, as we look to a future where multidisciplinary teams work together to support people in the community and free up GPs to spend more time with patients in specific need of their expertise.
The message that delivery of healthcare is about seeing the right person in the right place at the right time is important. All professionals who are involved in patient care have a leadership role to play, which will require collaborative working with a wide variety of professionals who are involved in primary care multidisciplinary teams. To that end, I am pleased that significant progress has been made. There has been a substantial increase in the workforce in order to develop multidisciplinary teams, and the primary care improvement fund to recruit multidisciplinary teams has doubled from £55 million to £110 million this year, with a further increase to £155 million in 2021-22.
I welcome the recommendations in the phase 2 report, which highlights how the lessons that we have learned can be applied in the future to improve the delivery of our care and support systems in Scotland. We are all keen to get back to business as usual, but it is only by understanding how primary care has changed since lockdown, and for whom, that we can direct the focus and ensure that those with the greatest need get the right help. I also welcome the Scottish Government’s response to the phase 2 report and the continuing focus on delivering a world-class public health system that delivers the right care in the right place at the right time to improve the population’s health and to address inequalities.