Record Scotland population sparks call for more GP surgeries

GP leaders have called on the Scottish government to support the development of more GP practices in order to keep up with Scotland's growing population.

Dr Alan McDevitt: ' There is no requirement for planning departments to consider the impact of new housing developments on local health services.'

The first results from the 2011 Census show that the Scottish population is at its highest ever level, with 5,295,000 inhabitants. Since the 2001 Census, the population has increased by 233,000 (5%). This represents the fastest growth rate between two Census years in the last century.

Statistics by ISD Scotland, however, show that the number of GP practices have gone down 2% since 2006, falling from 1,021 to 1,002, while the average list size per surgery has gone up by 4%, rising from 5,295 to 5,518.

GPs have warned that the increasing list sizes are affecting patients’ ability to access local GP services, and are calling on the Scottish government to put in place measures to provide support for the creation of new practices.

Dr Alan McDevitt, chairman of the BMA’s Scottish GPC, said: 'General practice is very much at the heart of local communities and the care we provide is valued by our patients.  Everyone needs to have access to their GP at some point in their life, from immunisation of babies to care for the elderly.  

'If we are to improve access and provide the range of services that patients need, then we have to make sure we have the capacity to deliver.'  

Scotland has also seen an increase in the number of people aged 65 and over by 85,000 (11%) since 2001, and now represents 17% of the population. The number of people aged 80 and over has also increased by 19%, having grown from 193,000 to 230,000 in a decade.

A spokesperson for BMA Scotland said: 'From the 2011 Census results there is an evident growth in the older population, which means there is an increasing demand for GP services. That is why there is a need to build resources such as new practices.'

GPs have also urged the Scottish government for measures to be put in place to ensure that town planners have a duty to consider the impact of new housing developments on local health services.

Dr McDevitt added: 'At present there is no requirement for planning departments to consider the impact of new housing developments on local health services, we believe that it would be common sense to include this as part of the planning process.'

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