Scotland

BMA warning over family doctor shortage

GP taking someone's blood pressure Image copyright PA

The lack of GPs in Scotland has been described as "extremely concerning" by the British Medical Association (BMA).

A survey found 28.5% of Scottish practices had at least one GP vacancy as of 1 June, up 2.5% in three months.

The BMA said vacancies were putting more strain on remaining GPs who have to cover staffing gaps as well as facing increased service demands.

Health Secretary Shona Robison said the Scottish government was already taking steps to improve GP recruitment.

Dr Alan McDevitt, chairman of the BMA Scottish GP Committee, said: "The fact that over 28% of GP practices in Scotland had a vacant position in this snapshot survey is extremely concerning.

"It shows that the recruitment and retention problems in general practice that we have been warning of are continuing to get worse.

"The Scottish government can no longer talk about record numbers of GPs in Scotland. The vacancy rate shows that there are simply not enough doctors to meet the demands being put upon general practice.

"Every unfilled vacancy puts more and more strain on remaining GPs who must struggle to cover the gaps in their practice while also coping with increasing demands on GP services.

"The Scottish government urgently needs to commit to improving recruitment and retention, as well as to increased funding to general practice."

Image caption The Scottish government said it was trying to encourage more doctors into general practice

Health Secretary Shona Robison said the government was already taking steps to address the shortage of GPs.

She said: "We are committed to supporting and developing local GP and primary care services, and working with stakeholders, including the BMA to do so.

"We have pledged to increase the number of GPs working in our NHS. Last year we confirmed an extra 100 GP training places to encourage more medical students into the profession, and an increase in our support for return to practice schemes that bring experienced GPs back into the health service."

Sustainable future

Ms Robison said Scotland continued to have the highest number of GPs per patient in the UK but said the way care was provided would need to be redesigned to make it sustainable.

"That means transforming primary care and GP services - increasing the role that other health professionals play in delivering care and making it much more of a team approach, allowing GPs to focus on those patients specifically in need of their expertise," she said.

"We have also allocated £20m over the next year to ease some of the immediate challenges facing the GP workforce. We will also continue our work with the profession to negotiate a new GP contract for 2017, which will be instrumental in delivering our shared vision for the future of GP services."

The Scottish Conservatives called on the government to "get to grips with" the issue of GP staffing.

Health spokesman Donald Cameron said: "With almost a third of GP practices reporting at least one vacancy, this is yet more evidence of the ongoing crisis in recruiting and retaining our family doctors.

"GPs are at the forefront of family healthcare and the SNP must get to grips with what is clearly a worsening situation.

"The SNP have run the health service since 2007 and should have foreseen the general crisis in NHS staffing a long time ago. It must be addressed at once as a matter of urgency."

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites