BMA Scottish GPs committee chair Andrew Buist (pictured) was speaking as the Scottish Government announced an additional £15m to help practices cope with extra pressures arising from the coronavirus crisis.
Around a third of the funding will help fund practices to stay open on Good Friday and Easter Monday where it is safe to do so, while the remainder will cover additional work by GPs and other practice staff, sickness leave arrangements, and additional practice expenses. This does not include the costs of PPE, which the Scottish Government is providing separately to GP practices.
Dr Buist said that asking GPs to keep their practices open over public holidays was not a request taken lightly. ‘Practices and out-of-hours services are working under more pressure than ever during this pandemic and I know GPs across Scotland are willing to put in the extra work required to help the NHS fight this virus.
‘Our NHS is changing, and at the forefront of that change is the primary care response. General practice is part of that protective ring around the hospital system that will help us all cope with the surge in demand we are expecting. I am extremely proud of how quickly GPs have responded to this challenge with flexibility and ingenuity. There is a huge amount of work being put in from the Scottish Government and across the system and now is the time for us to pull together, for clear thinking and strong leadership.’
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said all GP practice staff were doing an invaluable job to keep crucial primary care services going in very challenging circumstances.
‘Given the unprecedented situation we are in, I have taken the unusual step of asking GP practices to remain open on Good Friday and Easter Monday – but only if it is safe to do so. This will help to alleviate some pressure from out-of-hours services.
‘Working with SGPC we have agreed a package of additional funding for GP practices to help them meet some of the costs of responding to COVID-19. Part of this will help to cover the cost of remaining open on Good Friday and Easter Monday and the remainder will help to meet other costs being faced by practices during this difficult time.’
Elsewhere, work has started in Scotland to convert the Scottish Events Campus in Glasgow into a temporary medical facility to increase patient capacity, providing an additional 300 beds in the first instance.