GPs in Scotland at saturation point, BMA warns

GP numbers need to increase urgently because general practice is saturated, BMA Scotland has warned.

Dr Brian Keighley: more work needed to make general practice attractive

BMA Scotland called on the government to make general practice an attractive career option for medical trainees.

Chairman of BMA Scotland and retired GP Dr Brian Keighley warned that GP numbers have remained ‘largely static since 2009’ despite increased patient demand.

‘The increasing intensity and complexity of GP workload, the shift of work from hospitals into local communities and extended access initiatives means that general practice is at saturation point,’ he said.

‘There is an urgent need to increase the number of GPs in Scotland and the Scottish government should do more to promote general practice in Scotland as an attractive career choice for trainee doctors and GPs, particularly in remote and rural areas.

‘There is also an obstinate reluctance of the Scottish government to consider significant service redesign. Without a realistic debate on this issue, the NHS will be under huge pressure to make sure it has sufficient staff to deliver services as they are now. Trying to get even more work out of existing staff is not a sustainable solution.’

An Audit Scotland report on the public sector workforce published on 28 November called on councils, the NHS and the Scottish government to develop workforce plans with clear objectives.

Although 26,600 whole time equivalent public sector posts have been lost in the four years up to March 2013, more cuts would have to be made to achieve the savings needed, the report said.

The report said that the NHS made the smallest cuts between 2006 and 2013, reducing its workforce by 1,400 whole time equivalent posts to 133,200.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish government said: 'Scotland has more GPs per head of population than the rest of the UK and the Scottish government continues to recognise the valued commitment in primary care general practice by increasing the number of GPs by 5.7 per cent, which is over 250 additional GPs, and continuing to provide increased investment to fund the delivery of primary care services in line with the public sector pay policy, with over £757 million provided last year.

'The Scottish government is committed to providing their patients with the highest standards of care and that is why we have asked the BMA to identify priorities to address GP concerns about workload as part of current negotiations.'

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