Family doctors are calling for more investment in GP practices – to ease waiting times at the country’s A&E departments.
Last week The Sunday Post revealed how Scotland’s hospitals have lost 6,000 beds in the last decade, including in A&E, while emergency attendances have risen from 1.6 million to 1.7m a year.
All but four of Scotland’s health boards fail to meet the four-hour A&E waiting time target, some for several years. The congestion is partly caused by patients turning to A&E departments because they cannot get a GP appointment.
But doctors warned that unless there is a hike in government funding to hire more GPs, things are unlikely to change.
Dr Cary Lunan, chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs, said “sustained underfunding over the last decade” had left practices struggling to fill vacancies.
She said: “This is likely to have a knock-on-impact on our already stretched out-of-hours services, and secondary care services, such as A&E, with more patients likely to present there if they can’t be seen at their GP surgery as quickly as they feel they need to be.”
Shadow Health Secretary Miles Briggs is to lodge a motion in parliament this week calling for more GP funding. He said: “GP shortages, and the ever-increasing patient lists practices are now having to cope with, are the main reason so many patients feel they are being forced to flock to A&E for help.
“If our GP services were properly funded, and we believe it requires a budget boost of just 5.8% to alleviate the current crisis, hospitals would not be under so much pressure.”
The Scottish Government said Scotland had more GPs per head of population than the rest of the UK, with more to be hired over the coming years. It said: “Our core A&E departments are the best performing in the UK and have been for more than four and a half years, despite high attendance levels.”