Johnstone tells Primary Care conference of need to support GP practices in areas of high deprivation

Addressing the Priorities for Primary Care in Scotland conference today (17 Jan), Alison Johnstone, Health spokesperson for the Scottish Greens and MSP for Lothian, will call for further support for practices in areas of high deprivation.

Changes introduced by the Scottish Government recognise that the existing model leaves some practices unfairly exposed to financial risks, and fails to tackle health inequalities, but Greens argue the proposed changes may not go far enough.

In particular, Johnstone will call for better funding to support GP practices in deprived areas, allowing protected time for GPs in these areas to hold extended consultations, liaise more effectively with social work and mental health practitioners, and properly plan ahead. 

Greens believe that the GP funding formula should weight deprivation more heavily, and take the difference in healthy life expectancy between patients in deprived and affluent areas into greater account.  Greens would also support specific new budgets to tackle health inequalities through primary care and community health services.

Alison Johnstone, Health spokesperson for the Scottish Greens and MSP for Lothian, said:

"The proposals for new GP contracts are an improvement over the existing arrangements, but they remain just a step in the right direction.  Practices in more deprived areas will see some improvement, but not sufficient to allow them to shift their efforts from tackling patients' immediate problems towards longer term preventative work.

"Health inequality is an unglamorous term for a problem that desperately needs to be resolved. Tackling social and economic inequality directly is vital, but we believe additional support is needed now to help recruit GPs and establish practices in under-served areas. 

"Deprivation should be weighed more heavily in the revised formula, and other measures such as ring-fencing additional funding for practice development, and introducing a specific budget for tackling health inequalities should also be considered.  Additional strategic funding would allow GPs in more deprived areas to hold longer consultations to take account of more complex health needs, enable them to plan ahead as required for their patients, and give them space to work with other public services to make sure their community gets the joined-up support it needs.

"Providing robust GP services earlier is cost-efficient too, reducing the likelihood that someone will need to go to hospital with an avoidable and more serious condition. There are still opportunities for Ministers to enhance support for General Practice and make changes that will ensure the kind of comprehensive and responsive GP services that are required across Scotland."