House-building plans must consider GP practice capacity, warns RCGP Scotland

Patient care could be undermined and practices could buckle under pressure if plans to build new housing do not consider the impact on GP services, RCGP Scotland has warned.

Nearly 16,000 new homes were completed across Scotland in 2015/16, official data show, and construction began on nearly 17,000.

Earlier this month, a major Scottish developer announced plans to start work on more than 9,000 new homes over the coming year. The Springfield Properties building work will start in Elgin, Perth, Dundee, Stirling and Edinburgh.

But the RCGP warned that local planners should have an obligation to ensure 'the continuation of the safe provision of healthcare'. Failing to factor in the impact of new homes on GP services could undermine patient care and leave practices unable to cope, the college said.

GP workload

GPonline reported earlier this week that Scotland is losing the equivalent of one GP per week.

RCGP Scotland chair Dr Miles Mack said: 'Any attempts to tackle Scotland’s insufficient housing supply must consider the impact upon local general practices, many of which are struggling to survive while serving the size of communities they are already responsible for. Many GPs simply do not have the capacity to deal with larger lists of patients.'

The Springfield developments alone could represent nearly 21,000 people being added to GP practice lists, Dr Mack warned. 'What consideration has been given to the capacity of the existing local GP practices? Clearly, these people will mostly already be accommodated elsewhere but at a time when practices are restricting their lists across the country it is absolutely crucial that serious thought be given to the services for patients once they arrive in their new area.

'The planning system must take responsibility for the impact of decisions on GP services. Until they do, patients face uncertainty with the possibility of their practices simply buckling under added pressures.'

Photo: iStock

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