The new GP contract is just one piece of the jigsaw. It’s right that GPs should have a contract that they are willing to sign up to, but there are significant questions about the impact and demands it will place on other staff, particularly practice nursing and community nursing teams. So, how is the Scottish Government going to meet the recruitment and retention challenges across all aspects of health and social care services and primary care in the future?
Fortunately, we shouldn’t have to wait too long to find out. A new primary care workforce plan is to be published shortly. It should tell us what remedial work and future planning the Scottish Government thinks is needed to develop a workforce that is up to scratch.
I hope the Government’s been listening to nurses and support workers across health and social care, in the NHS and independent sector.
If it has been listening, the plan will make getting rid of the unsustainable 6.2% vacancy rate in district nursing teams a priority. Having so many vacant posts is putting this vital part of the primary care workforce under immense pressure. It’s also poses a threat to the quality of care patients and the public need.
But producing a primary care workforce fit for the future will take more than recruiting more district nurses, important as that is. Patients need a high quality, 24-hour service seven-days-week that meets their needs at, or close to, home. Only by developing multidisciplinary teams, in which the expertise of each member of staff is recognised, can this be achieved.
The new primary care workforce plan must set out what additional resources and support for nursing and all staffing groups the Scottish Government is going to commit. The plan also needs to set out how this can be achieved in ways that can be sustained to ensure improvements can be maintained in the long term.
The Scottish Government has the perfect opportunity to make a difference in the forthcoming primary care workforce plan. Let’s hope it doesn’t miss the chance.