GP practices in Scotland have been allocated £80.6m to recruit more healthcare professionals, including pharmacists, into general practice roles.

In an announcement this week (7 February), the Scottish Government said that £80.6 million has been allocated to health boards to ‘improve patient care’ by expanding teams within GP practices and to ‘modernise’ systems.

‘The funding will allow healthcare professionals to be established in every GP practice’ which will lead to ‘greater pharmacy support’ for repeat prescriptions and medication reviews, the Government said.

The money will also be used for improving access to ‘nursing support for routine tests and wound treatment’ as well as ‘physiotherapy services’.

‘These measures will ensure patients can see the right healthcare expert at the right time while giving GPs more time with patients most in need of their skills and allowing doctors to focus on complex diagnoses, such as suspected cancer cases,’ the announcement explained.

This investment comes as part of a £360m block sum which was allocated under the 2018 GP Contract over four years to develop an extended team of primary care professionals in general practice.

This announcement of £77.5m is the final allocation of the four-year fund with an additional £3.1m from this year’s budget.

A further £2m has also been allocated to ‘modernise telephone systems’ within practices which the Government said would improve call waiting times for patients.

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 is 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’.

In September, Community Pharmacy Scotland highlighted concerns over the community pharmacy workforce numbers and increasing workforce pressures, which it attributed in part to the ‘uncoordinated recruitment’ from general practice.

NHS Scotland published its Recovery Plan in August in which it detailed plans to recruit more pharmacists into general practice.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society opposed a call for a temporary pause in recruiting community pharmacists into general practice support roles, saying that pharmacists should not be held back from making individual career choices and moving into general practice roles.