NHS takes control of record number of GP practices
Scottish GP practices returned to health board control reaches 52 - the highest on record, says RCGP Scotland
Doctor - PA
Health boards in Scotland have taken control of a record number of local doctors' practices in recent years, figures from the Royal College of GPs (RCGP) have revealed.
Facing a recruitment crisis as family doctors take early retirement and remote locations struggle to attract new GPs, practices are being handed back to health boards as they struggle to meet their commitments.
This means the number of patients treated directly by the NHS in so-called “2c” practices has doubled since 2007 to around 160,000.
Transition to 2c practices is costly for the NHS and can lead to a pared back service as the board meets its obligations to provide “primary medical services”.
The RCGP in Scotland argue this diminishes the role of the GP and provides less value for money.
Dr Miles Mack, Chair of RCGP Scotland, said: “In particular, it means that GPs are no longer in a leadership role and there is less continuity of care for patients.
Mack said public funding on GP services as a proportion of NHS spending has declined.
“Sufficient action must be taken to fill the projected shortfall of 856 GPs across Scotland by 2021,” he said.
“To fund that appropriately we need 11 per cent of NHS Scotland’s budget to go to general practice services.”
The Scottish Government wants to reform primary care so it is delivery by multiple professions with a GP at the head, and is currently negotiating with doctor’s union the BMA on a new GP contract.
This would see pharmacists and physios take on additional responsibilities to ease GPs' workload.
But the Scottish Conservatives, who will hold a Scottish Parliament debate on GP recruitment tomorrow, said more needs to be invested in general practice.
Shadow health secretary Miles Briggs said the RCGP figures were a “depressing indication” of the crisis in recruitment.
“These are not decisions a GP practice would take lightly, and tens of thousands of patients will have been hit as a result,” he said.
“The SNP has had more than a decade to ensure Scotland has a well-resourced, well-equipped GP set-up.
“Instead, dozens of practices are returning their contracts because they can’t meet their obligations.”
Scottish Labour's health spokesperson, Anas Sarwar, said Labour’s workforce commission, which was originally to be chaired by Mack, would look for solutions to the problem.
“Local practices are a vital part of our health service and it is deeply troubling to see them close,” he said.
“As the Royal College of General Practitioners states, there is a workforce crisis in primary care, while funding for GPs has been slashed.”
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