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27.04.15

Scotland facing a shortfall of more than 900 GPs by 2020

Scotland’s recruitment crisis could lead to a shortfall of more than 900 GPs in the next five years.

The warning comes from the Royal College of GPs Scotland, who say that if the Scottish population increases at the highest estimate of predicted growth, 915 extra GPs will be needed to regain and maintain coverage per head of population as it stood in 2009. Even if growth were to be at its lower predicted rate, 563 extra GPs will be needed.

Dr Miles Mack, chair of RCGP Scotland, said: “We need up to 915 more GPs in the next five years or we face a very different 2020 Vision than the Scottish Government would wish to report. It takes five years after a first university medical degree to train a GP. We need immediate action and radical thinking if we are to save the system we have been so justly proud of.

“These findings are very worrying indeed. There is clearly a desperate need for all Scottish politicians to put general practice at the front of their thinking and announcements and to emulate the commitments for England that political leaders there have given regarding sourcing and funding a much larger GP workforce. We have heard one, very welcome, commitment to 500 extra GPs in Scotland from Scottish Labour.

“What a loss it would be if the other Scottish parties ignored the central hub of the Scottish NHS and did not seize the opportunity to save general practice. Only then will the Scottish public be better served by its health service and the pressure can be lifted from A&E and the rest of the NHS.”

Further new figures, from a poll carried out in March-April 2015 by ComRes, show that a third of Scots (36%) say that last time they tried to book an appointment, they could not get to see their GP within the Scottish Government’s 48 hour HEAT target for GP access.

Over a quarter of Scottish people (28%) say that they were unable to book an appointment within a week and three in ten (29%) say that the ability to see their GP will decline over the next five years. Two in five (42%) Scottish adults agree that waiting times to see a GP are ‘a national crisis’.

BMA Scottish GPs committee chair Alan McDevitt said: “Our national survey of GPs found that doctors were concerned that the pressures of their workload were affecting the quality of care for their patients. One in three said they were hoping to retire in the next five years.”

He said helping GPs manage their workload and reduce bureaucracy was the first step in making general practice a more attractive career choice for young doctors.

Scottish health secretary Shona Robison said the number of GPs employed in Scotland had risen to its highest level under the current government and that funding had increased by 10%.

She cited the recently agreed GP contract, which aimed to give the profession stability over the next three years, as a means to reduce bureaucracy and allow doctors more time with patients.

Robison added the Scottish government would continue to support general practice and work with the BMA and RCGP to find “innovative solutions” to recruitment and retention problems.

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