RCGP Scotland respond to the Health and Sport Committee’s Report on the Supply and Demand for Medicine

Publication date: 30 June 2020

Responding to the Health and Sport Committee’s Report on the Supply and Demand for Medicines, which has been published today (30 June 2020) and concludes that the medicines system in Scotland ‘does not have a focus on patients’, Dr Carey Lunan, Chair of RCGP Scotland stated:

“It is deeply unfair and inappropriate to suggest that the default position of GPs and other medical professionals is simply to “reach for their prescription pad” when considering care options for patients. GPs always strive to deliver the highest standard of care for their patients, which is built around the principles of Realistic Medicine and shared decision making, and they do this day in, day out in often very challenging circumstances. GPs are trained to consider the whole person, rather than the single condition, taking into account the values and beliefs of individual patients, and the evidence base for any treatments offered. They do all of this within the confines of a ten-minute appointment, which in many cases is simply not long enough.

Take the example of patients presenting with mental health difficulties. Despite our desire and our preference in many circumstances to focus on non-medicine alternatives, our options in reality are severely limited. Waiting times for access to mental health talking therapies are too long. Many of the voluntary and third sector agencies in the community that we have come to rely on have precarious and time-limited funding. Our patients, understandably, are desperate to feel better quickly. We frequently find ourselves resisting a wider cultural norm of “pills for all ills”. The levels of mental distress that we are seeing during the COVID-19 pandemic are only set to increase and we urgently need to identify ways to support patients with the difficulties that they are experiencing, where medication is not the answer. We cannot do this alone.

We have consistently called for action to be taken to increase the number of GPs in the workforce, which would in turn allow for GPs to move away from 10-minute appointments, providing more time for patients and clinicians to more fully explore the treatment options that are available to them.

We welcome the report’s focus on the need for urgent action to be taken to improve health IT systems. We are behind other parts of the UK with our outdated paper prescribing systems and need to urgently move towards paperless prescribing as a safer, more efficient process. We also need to see our IT systems improved in terms of reliability, speed, and interoperability to allow health care professionals working in different parts of the system to share data quickly and safely.

We look forward to continuing to work with the Health and Sport Committee, the Scottish Government and colleagues working across health and social care to ensure that GPs are supported to continue to deliver the highest standard of patient care.”

Further Information

Media requests to Lizzie Edwards, Policy and Campaigns Manager: lizzie.edwards@rcgp.org.uk

Notes to editor

  1. RCGP Scotland represents a network of around 5,000 doctors in Scotland aiming to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standard of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on resources, education, training, research and clinical standards.
  2. The Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee's report on the Supply and Demand for Medicine can be accessed from the Scottish Parliament website.

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