A body representing doctors in Scotland has called for more to be done to deal with the “whole picture” of health inequality.

The move by the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) Scotland comes after damning reports about life expectancy and care in the country.

The body claims the focus should be on direct action against inequalities in health, rather than just the “root causes”.

Dr Carey Lunan, chairwoman of RCGP Scotland, said: “It is right that Scottish Government is trying to deal with the root causes of inequality across Scotland. Inequalities exist in income, employment, wealth and power.

“Health inequalities, however, cannot be set aside while those efforts continue.

“We have sought to deal with root causes for some time now and little has positively changed in health expectancy for those living in deprivation in both urban and remote and rural areas. We must deal with the whole picture.”

She added that community link workers for practices in areas of high deprivation needed to be secured urgently.

Better continuity of care for those who would benefit most was also highlighted as an area for improvement.

Dr Lunan called for schemes that tie up health and social care to be protected and receive additional funding.


She pointed to the Govan SHIP initiative, which she described as a “much-lauded” Scottish Government scheme which “demonstrates the value of joint working” to create tailored care plans for the most complex patients.

Dr Lunan added: “Schemes like that need to be protected, upscaled and rolled out wherever they are required if we are to be a truly fairer society.

“GP practices in areas of deprivation – urban or rural – have traditionally struggled to recruit GPs to their teams.

“We are delighted that Scottish Government has launched a new website to aid recruitment to GP practices across Scotland, and we will work together to promote this very welcome support for our workforce.”

The comments come after Edinburgh Napier University research found that the least deprived areas of Scotland saw 22% die in a care home and 8% in hospice, while those in the most deprived areas saw 13% die in a care home and 6% in a hospice.

It was also revealed by National Records of Scotland figures that there had been a fall in average life expectancy, which was already below the UK average.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We welcome the RCGP recognition that our initiatives, like the Govan SHIP scheme, are helping to improve patient care and contributing towards the recruitment and retention of GPs within the participating practices.

“The Health Secretary addressed the Royal College of General Practitioners Conference this week and discussed directly with GPs the number of steps we are taking to create the sustainable health and social care workforce needed for the future, including our commitment to create 800 more GPs in the next decade.

“We are focused on addressing the underlying causes that drive health inequalities, which has income inequality at its heart.

“Our bold package of measures to help tackle key issues such as smoking, obesity, inactivity, and alcohol misuse will support people to live longer healthier lives.”

Ministers are also tackling the wider causes of health inequalities through measures such as investing in affordable housing, providing free school meals and continuing commitments like free prescriptions and free personal care, the spokesman added.

RCGP Scotland is to host a round-table discussion on health inequality at the SNP conference on Monday.