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Doctors raise doubts over multi-million funding boost

A MULTI-MILLION-POUND ­funding increase for Scottish GPs will do little to address soaring workloads or solve a nationwide recruitment crisis, family doctors attending a major national conference have said.

Health Secretary Alex Neil, who spoke at the Scottish Local Medical Committee (LMC) annual conference in Clydebank yesterday, announced £6 million of additional funding for primary care.

The Scottish Government said it was equivalent to the 1% pay rise offered to other NHS staff.

However, doctors pointed out that the funding boost amounted to little more than £1 per patient in Scotland and called for far more to be invested in the service.

Many said they were regularly forced to work 12-hour days and warned care could suffer without a significant increase in resources.

Motions voicing concerns over rising GP workloads and calling on the Government to increase funding to general practices were passed unanimously by around 100 doctors after the funding boost was announced.

Dr Mary O'Brien, a Tayside GP and deputy chairwoman of the Scottish LMC Agenda committee, said the primary care system was "very close" to breaking point and argued the increase in funding did not keep pace with rising staffing costs and utility bills.

She said: "It's not a pay increase. It's not even a pay freeze. What's happened is that year on year there has been a pay cut, and it has been going on for the last seven or eight years.

"We need more staff to try and cope with an ever rising workload, but we can't attract young doctors into general practice because they look at what we do and the thanks we get. Lots of GPs are leaving because of the workload."

Doctors also said they had not been involved closely enough in the Scottish Government's policy of integrating health and social care. It has been hailed as the solution to the issue of a rising number of elderly patients who will rely on the NHS in coming decades.

Dr O'Brien added: "General practice is the answer. The Government can't afford not to sit up, listen and appreciate that. This will fail if they don't engage with community GPs, they have to be there and at the top.

"We're the most cost-effective part of the health service but get the least amount of resource. They have to increase resources into general practice, which is best for patients and taxpayers."

Health Secretary Alex Neil said the £6m investment in primary care was beyond the sum recommended by the review body that advises the Government over rates of doctors and dentists' pay, and recognised the role of GPs.

He said: "It comes on the back of our more Scottish-focused contact which aims to allow GPs to spend more time with patients, will review access, drive forward quality improvements and ensure GPs are fully involved in the integration of health and social care.

"These policies are helping our NHS to evolve and will see more people get the support they need to be able to stay in their own homes or in homely settings for as long as possible.

"Not only is this because most of us would wish to be cared for in our own home but it is about avoiding unnecessarily hospital stays because someone can't be cared for properly in their communities. We can only achieve this with the support of our primary care staff who are leading the way in shift in the balance of care towards care at home."

Also at the conference, doctors expressed fears over e-cigarettes. One GP said a mother asked her whether she should be concerned that her daughter had been found with one at her primary school.

They called for the Government to ban the use of the products in enclosed public spaces while also prohibiting their sale to under-18s.

Dr Andrew Thomson, a GP from Tayside, said: "It is not right we have a situation where primary school children have access to an addictive, unlicensed and unregulated product."

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