BMA issues Scottish GP recruitment warning
Scotland is facing a GP recruitment "crisis", with almost a fifth of practices reporting a vacancy, the British Medical Association has claimed.
Its Scottish GP committee found that 17% of 463 practices surveyed had at least one vacancy for a GP.
The organisation warned that the situation would affect patient care.
But the Scottish government said Scotland has more GPs per head of population than England.
It said difficulties in recruiting GPs was "not an issue unique to Scotland".
And it said its investment in primary care had seen the number of GPs increase by 6.9%.
In its report, the BMA said that three-quarters of the practices it had surveyed said that they were unable to secure locum cover on at least one day over a one-month period while some practices reported being unable to secure cover for 15 days or more.
Recruitment and retention
The organisation, which represents doctors and medical students, warned that the situation threatened patient care and called on the Scottish government to work with it to improve the recruitment and retention of staff.
Its survey was released in advance of the annual conference of Scottish local medical committees in Glasgow.
Dr Andrew Buist, deputy chair of the Scottish GP committee, said the findings supported anecdotal evidence from GPs.
He said: "Scotland is facing a GP recruitment crisis which is being further exacerbated by difficulties in securing locum cover.
"An ever-increasing workload, combined with falling resources, has led to a reduction in the number of doctors choosing to train as GPs while senior GPs are choosing to retire early or work abroad for a better work-life balance.
"This will inevitably affect the care we can provide to our patients. A high vacancy rate translates into a decline in the number of available appointments - reducing access to general practice at a time when we are trying to treat more people in their communities.
"The findings from our survey also illustrate the need for urgent action to ensure that we are able to recruit and retain GPs now."
A Scottish government spokesman said it "continues to support, build upon and sustain Scottish general practice".
He added: "We're working with health boards and the medical profession to develop short-term recruitment initiatives as we look to develop more attractive medical career pathways. The BMA is a key partner in this work.
"The Scottish government has invested £50m in primary care and community premises across Scotland this year. This is additional to the £250m investment in community-based health facilities through the Hub programme.
"In addition, our primary care development fund will ensure our GPs and primary care professionals can help our health service evolve to meet the changing needs of the people of Scotland."