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Next GP to the surgery please…

Helen Raftopoulos, The Scottish Funding Council’s Assistant Director for Health, looks at SFC’s role in helping to meet the challenges facing general practice in Scotland.

Next GP to the surgery pleaseThe general practitioner has been at the centre of primary health care since the earliest days of the National Health Service. In 1948 the idea of having a family doctor was so popular that, within a month of the NHS being formed, 90% of the population had registered with a GP.

The role has always faced its challenges, with the need to keep up with growing demands and expectations a recurring theme. And GPs are back in the news this week as a result of a new study from the Nuffield Trust carried out for the BBC’s Panorama programme.

While the Nuffield Trust’s analysis of GPs per head of population indicates that Scotland has 76 GPs per 100,000 people compared with a UK average of 60, the Royal College of General Practitioners Scotland has warned of a shortfall of family doctors by 2021. We also need to sustain services to rural and remote communities.

The Scottish Funding Council has been working closely with the Scottish Government Health and Social Care Department (SGHSCD), NHS Education for Scotland and universities to take on these challenges. Our outcome agreements with universities now include special requirements related to health, with specific actions to encourage more of our young doctors to become GPs.

We know that graduates are more likely to apply for GP training if they have had prior positive experience of primary health care so we have asked universities to look at ways to increase placements in primary healthcare settings. Additionally, we are working with universities to ensure that all medical students are regularly taught by GPs. To meet the future needs of the NHS and increase the number of graduates who will stay and work in Scotland, we are asking universities to evidence the work they are doing with schools and colleges to encourage applicants from more diverse backgrounds.

The Scottish Funding Council is also investing in innovations that will shape the health care of future generations. For example, we believe that by putting Scotland at the centre of the digital revolution in medicine we will not only help to improve the care of patients but we will also make Scotland a more attractive place for health professionals to work. The Digital Health & Care Institute is an important part of the £100 million investment that SFC and its partners are making in Scottish Innovation Centres.

We should never be complacent but neither should we become despondent about the future of primary health care in Scotland. Our ability to adapt, innovate and to make the most of the world-leading capabilities of our universities and medical schools should give us grounds for optimism. SFC will continue to nurture, monitor and invest in all of those things.

Helen Raftopoulos, SFC Assistant Director, Health and Care - 9 May 2019