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15 February 2019, 06:37
Inadequate funding for GP practices in deprived areas of Scotland has led to a failure in addressing health inequalities, it has been claimed.
Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) chairwoman Dr Carey Lunan said additional funding for some practices had not been delivered one year after the agreement of a new GP contract.
The agreement, which came into effect on April 1 last year, was backed by £100 million of Scottish Government funding in 2018-19 to support its implementation.
Dr Lunan said: "Health inequalities are the poor relations to the health concerns of the wealthy.
"GP practices in areas of deprivation, wherever they are, require appropriate funding and resource, based on levels of need and not simply demand.
"We have to decide what kind of society we wish to be and act accordingly.
"In Scotland, we are approaching a year since a new contract was agreed by GPs.
"It was launched with the promise that it would 'address health inequalities'.
"Unfortunately, many practices in areas of high deprivation did not receive the additional funding that others did, which has meant that they are less able to invest in the services they are able to offer patients and less attractive in terms of recruitment.
"That discrepancy in additional funding further worsens health inequalities.
"As GPs and primary healthcare teams there is a lot that we can do potentially to help to tackle this situation as long as the resources are there to support us."
Dr Lunan said dealing with complex health and social care issues that often exist in areas of high deprivation require far more than an "unsatisfactory" 10-minute consultation length in place.
"We also need to ensure continuity of care for those who would benefit most from seeing the same doctor," Dr Lunan added.
"The ability of GPs to speak up on behalf of patients who often have no voice in society, to advocate for their patients, to raise concerns and lobby for change and improvement, that is only possible with an adequate workforce."
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "To ensure everyone in Scotland can access the best possible care no matter where they live, the Scottish Government has allocated increased funding to practices in deprived areas following an extensive review in 2016.
"With 92 GPs for every 100,000 people Scotland fares far better than the rest of the UK, where England has 73, Northern Ireland as 71 and Wales has 70.
"We have also committed to further build on this record number of GPs by at least 800 over the next decade.
"This is because of the commitment and investment of the Scottish Government.
"The new GP contract, backed by £110 million this year and negotiated with the BMA and GPs, introduces multi-disciplinary teams to practices to ensure GPs are able to spend more time with patients and less on bureaucracy, while a further £7.5 million is being spent on GP recruitment and retention this year."