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Scottish Conservatives back bigger share of NHS budget for GPs

But also propose controversial move of attaching district nurses to GP practices

Louise Prime

Thursday, 14 April 2016

GPs should get a larger and increasing share of a growing health budget, according to Scottish Conservatives, who also support the moves towards GP clusters. They call in their new manifesto for an additional 500 health visitors to be recruited in Scotland, and for health visitor services to be attached to GP practices; for consideration of GPs and health boards levying fines on patients who miss three appointments without good reason; for the Minor Ailments Service to be expanded to reduce unnecessary visits to GPs; and for round-the-clock dedicated mental health support in every GP surgery and every A&E department. And they propose that prescription charges in Scotland should be reintroduced, to raise £65m to invest back into in the NHS.

In its manifesto, the party declared: “We support the moves towards GP clusters, with additional freedoms for GPs within them. With the overall health budget due to increase annually over the course of the Parliament, we think that GP budgets should increase too and, in addition, the share of the budget that GPs get should also increase every year.”

It went on to insist that pharmacies should be put at the heart of primary care, as research has shown that an estimated 1 in 10 GP consultations and 1 in 20 A&E attendances could have been managed by community pharmacists utilising the Minor Ailment Service (MAS). It said: “We will support an expansion of the MAS by an additional £10m every year, with broader eligibility criteria, and aim to considerably raise public awareness of the scheme.”

Scottish Conservatives pointed to their long-standing commitment to a universal GP-attached health visiting service, extended to age 7, and said they would hire an additional 500 health visitors over the next 4 years, above and beyond the Scottish National Party’s (SNP) present plans, providing a “considerable shift towards early intervention”.

The Royal College of Nursing Scotland welcomed the proposal for an increase in health visitor numbers, but not for the service to become attached to GP practices. Its associate director Ellen Hudson said: “Health visitors must have the flexibility to deliver the service in ways which work for all families, particularly those who do not access services in a traditional way. Sharing information and good communication with GP teams is crucial for children and their families, but this can be achieved through aligning services with GP practices, yet retaining that important flexibility. This does not require attachment.”

When Scottish Conservatives leader Ruth Hudson launched the party’s “plan to lead a strong opposition to the SNP” yesterday, she also demanded transformational change in mental health care provision, pointing out that one in four of all Scots experience a mental health problem, yet waiting times for treatment are still too high, with up to a third of people having to wait for over 4½ months in some health boards. She called for an additional £300m to be invested in improving mental health treatment over the next Parliament, as part of a long-term 10-year delivery plan. This, said the manifesto, “should be used to improve capacity and staffing across the health service, with an ambition to provide dedicated mental health support in every GP surgery and every A&E department 24/7.”

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