GPs are the bedrock of healthcare in Scotland. Ninety per cent of patients’ contact with the NHS is through a GP and, as a result, your GPs direct the spending of about half of NHS Scotland’s budget.
That is a huge responsibility, but a very welcome one, for no one else is in as good a position to match the needs of people with the strained abilities of the system.
Instead of one appointment, patients may have many
Over the past decade, however, largely as a result of increasing demand and more complex medical conditions, underfunding of GPs and a lack of workforce planning, it has become more and more difficult for family doctors to do that safely.
As a result, the situation is changing and patients in Scotland should be made very aware of it.
The approach from the Scottish Government has been to plan to broaden the team that plays its part in looking after people outside of hospital – what is known as primary care.
We need more involvement from physiotherapists, nurses, pharmacists and others. That expansion is a good thing.
It is absolutely not, however, the be all and end all and will make matters worse if it is the only approach.
Underpinning patients’ care must be the clinicians able to make the most difficult medical decisions – your GP.
Strain on the system
The wider team members are exceptionally good at what they do, and their work vitally compliments the work of GPs, but they do not do everything. GPs look after you comprehensively.
The expansion of these colleagues must be in parallel with the expansion in the numbers of GPs.
If patients are to see one team member for one condition, another for a second and another for a third, it not only puts more strain on the system but demands a great deal more from patients.
Instead of one appointment, patients may have many. Instead of the continuity of care of a trusted doctor, patients may not have a single, trusted face to whom they can turn.