Funding in direct support of general practice will rise by £250m per year by 2021, Scottish health secretary Shona Robison has announced.
Speaking at the annual conference for Scottish LMCs in Clydebank, Ms Robison said an additional £71.6m would directly support general practice in 2017-18 to improve recruitment and retention, reduce workload and cover pay and expenses.
In a wide-ranging speech, and in response to questions from GPs, she also pledged a new approach to supporting GP premises, proposed that immunisation programmes should be transferred from general practice, and promised that GPs would not be forced to work public holidays.
The health secretary also acknowledged that negotiations for a new GP contract for Scotland were taking time – but said it was a ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’, so it was important to get it right.
Direct support welcomed
BMA Scottish GPs committee chair Alan McDevitt welcomed the announcements. ‘We are delighted to have negotiated with the Scottish Government that a substantial proportion of the additional investment into primary care will be spent in direct support of general practice,’ he said.
‘This will allow us to move forward in our negotiations to agree a sustainable future for general practice in Scotland.
‘Throughout our negotiations we have been absolutely clear that a significant part of this funding must be in direct support of general practice so that we can negotiate how this will be spent to ensure it impacts specifically on the issues facing general practice.’
Ms Robison also distanced herself from the English health secretary, saying that while she wanted a safe seven-day service, with improved access to diagnostics and hospital discharge at weekends, she did not want an ‘all-singing, all-dancing’ service that involved doing interventions at 4am ‘just because you can’.
Saying that she appreciated the value of general practice, she said the BMA’s vision of the GP leader surrounded by a multidisciplinary team in the community would help to address issues around workload and recruitment and retention.
Dr McDevitt said that the proposal to move immunisation programmes from GP practices was a ‘positive step in the right direction towards our shared vision for general practice’.
‘Practices are currently facing unprecedented workload pressures against a backdrop of an ageing population with increasingly complex care needs.
‘Freeing up practice time by removing responsibility for immunisation programmes will give welcome relief to overloaded practice staff, allowing them to concentrate more on the needs of patients.
‘The wider primary care team is hugely important to the future success of general practice and we cannot deliver our vision and new ways of working without the support of other community health professionals.’
The new funding will be split as follows:
- £60m for direct support of general practice. This includes £20m towards workforce, £21m for transformation and clusters and £5.5m for infrastructure.
- £11.6m for contract uplift in 2017-18 to cover pay and expenses.
Further details of how the £60m fund will be invested, announced today, include:
- A fivefold increase in the GP Recruitment and Retention Fund – from £1m in 2016-17 to £5m in 2017-18 – to help fund GP bursaries and expand a scheme to encourage retired GPs to return to practice.
- An increase in the amount a practice can claim to help pay for locum cover when a GP is on sick leave, to match the level of maternity leave cover.
- A further £200,000 to reimburse the increase in the costs of completing GP appraisals, including for sessional GPs.
Read the latest on negotiations between the BMA and the Scottish Government
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