Quarter of Scottish practices have at least one GP vacancy, BMA poll reveals

One in four practices in Scotland have at least one GP post vacant, according to a BMA poll carried out ahead of the 2016 Scottish LMCs conference.

Dr Alan McDevitt: 'Every unfilled vacancy puts more strain on remaining GPs'
Dr Alan McDevitt: 'Every unfilled vacancy puts more strain on remaining GPs'

More than half of the 975 practices in Scotland responded to the poll, and 26% of practices that took part had at least one GP post unfilled.

The findings suggest the GP workforce crisis in Scotland is growing rapidly - a similar poll carried out a year earlier found that just 17% of practices had at least one vacancy.

BMA leaders warned that the poll findings showed 'the deepening scale of the recruitment gaps facing general practice' in Scotland.

A total of 41% of practices that reported having a vacant GP post said they had been unable to fill the position for six months or longer.

Scottish GP contract

GPs in Scotland are set to move to a contract that will break away from the UK-wide deal negotiated by the BMA from 2017, with the QOF set to be scrapped for Scottish practices.

GPs at the 2016 Scottish LMCs conference in Clydebank, near Glasgow on Friday will warn that Scotland may lack the primary care workforce to deliver key elements expected to be included in the breakaway contract.

GPC Scotland chairman Dr Alan McDevitt said: 'The fact that more than one in four GP practices in Scotland had a vacant position in this snapshot survey is extremely troubling. It indicates that the recruitment and retention problems in general practice we have been warning of have become significantly worse over the last year.

'It is not enough to talk about record numbers of GPs in Scotland when the vacancy rate shows that there are simply not enough doctors to meet the demands being put upon general practice.

GP workforce

'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 rapidly increasing demands on GP services.

'The Scottish government needs to commit to improving recruitment and retention, as well as to increased funding to general practice and primary care.

'Steps to ease the unmanageable workload on GPs such as the abolition of QOF will help the profession, but a lot more must be done if general practice is to once again be an attractive career choice for doctors.'

Speaking after the BMA revealed motions for debate at the 2016 conference, Scottish health secretary Shona Robison said: 'The Scottish government is committed to supporting and enhancing primary care and the work of GPs. Scotland has the highest number of GPs per head of the population of the four UK countries and under this government the number of GPs working in Scotland has increased.

'In December, Scotland became the first country in the UK to agree to completely abolish the existing bureaucratic  and burdensome GP payments system, freeing up GPs to spend more time with patients – a decision first announced at the RCGP conference in October, which was strongly welcomed by the RCGP.

'Funding for GP services has increased each year under this government, rising from £704.61 million in 2007/8 to £852.6m in 2014/15. The new £45m primary care fund in the 2016/17 draft budget equates to an increase for primary care of over 6% above the investment in the GP contract from the Scottish government.'

Health secretary Shona Robison said: 'The Scottish government is committed to supporting and enhancing primary care and the work of GPs. Scotland has the highest number of GPs per head of the population of the four UK countries and under this government the number of GPs working in Scotland has increased. In December, Scotland became the first country in the UK to agree to completely abolish the existing bureaucratic  and burdensome GP payments system, freeing up GPs to spend more time with patients – a decision first announced at the RCGP conference in October, which was strongly welcomed by the RCGP.

'Funding for GP services has increased each year under this government, rising from £704.61 million in 2007/8 to £852.6m in 2014/15. The new £45m primary care fund in the 2016/17 draft budget equates to an increase for primary care of over 6% above the investment in the GP contract from the Scottish government.

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