GP practices across Scotland have been allocated £82.6m, which will partly be used to provide greater pharmacy support for repeat prescriptions and medication reviews, the Scottish government has said.
In an announcement made on 7 February 2022, the Scottish government said the funding would “expand teams within GP practices”, enabling GP practices to provide increased nursing support and access to physiotherapy services, in addition to greater pharmacy support.
The funding includes the final allocation of a four-year funding package, worth £360m in total, which had been set aside under the ‘2018 General Medical Services Contract in Scotland‘ to develop an extended team of primary care professionals in general practice.
This final allocation of £77.5m has been supplemented with a further £2m to “modernise telephone systems”, and an additional £3.1m from the 2021/2022 budget, the announcement said.
Under the 2018 GP contract in Scotland, practices were asked to provide a ‘level one’ pharmacotherapy service by April 2021, which includes providing pharmacist support for authorising or actioning all acute and repeat prescribing requests, medicines reconciliation, non-clinical medication reviews and monitoring high-risk medicines.
However, in July 2021, this deadline was extended until April 2022, owing in part to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Clare Morrison, director of theRoyal Pharmaceutical Society in Scotland, said it was “excellent to see the importance of pharmacy teams’ roles being recognised in this funding announcement from Scottish government”.
“At the moment, there is no detail available on how this funding will be broken down: we look forward to hearing from Scottish government on how it will ensure funding reaches pharmacy teams across Scotland so that they are able to increase the pharmacy support services described in the announcement.”
The release of the final tranche of funding follows concerns raised by the British Medical Association’s (BMA) Scottish GP committee in December 2020, which said that progress towards delivering the GP contract had “been patchy,” citing “a combination of issues, from insufficient workforce to lack of premises, inadequate management support and perhaps funding”.
In February 2019, pharmacy leaders also warned that workforce shortages may affect how the pharmacotherapy service is implemented.
Commenting on the latest release of funding, Andrew Buist, chair of the BMA’s Scottish GP committee, said: “We need help to cope with demand — both while the pandemic continues and looking longer term, including as restrictions begin to ease following the Omicron wave [of COVID-19].
“A crucial part of this is building the teams around GPs and ensuring there are the right skilled staff in place to ensure people are treated by the most appropriate professional, freeing up GPs time to focus on the highest priority patients who need our time the most.
“This funding will make a crucial contribution in that sense, so is very welcome and we hope it will make a real difference for practices and patients across Scotland.”
Humza Yousaf, Scottish cabinet secretary for health and social care, said the funding would “improve how general practice services are delivered and in turn enhance the patients’ experience of accessing care”.