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Survey reveals GP recruitment crisis in Scotland

Some 26% of practices report GP vacancies

Jo Carlowe

Wednesday, 09 March 2016

More than one in four GP practices in Scotland has reported a vacancy, a new survey shows.

The British Medical Association survey of Scotland’s GP practices has highlighted the deepening scale of the recruitment gaps facing general practice in Scotland.

The survey of all of Scotland’s 975 GP practices received 500 responses, a response rate of over 50%, and found that on 15 February this year 26% of practices had at least one GP vacancy. This figure compares to a similar BMA survey published in March 2015 which found that 17% of practices reported having at least one vacancy.

Of the practices that reported having at least one vacancy, 41% indicated that this post had been vacant for six months or longer.

Commenting, Chair of BMA Scotland’s GP Committee 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.

“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.”

Scottish GPs will gather on Friday for the Scottish Local Medical Committee Conference in Clydebank to discuss the way forward for general practice in Scotland.

Dr McDevitt added: “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.”

Health Secretary Shona Robison, defended the record of the Scottish government. "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. Funding for GP services has increased each year under this Government, rising from £704.61 million in 2007/08 to £852.6 million in 2014/15. The new £45 million 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."

She added: “We are transforming primary care, including investing £13 million in developing new ways of working with multi-disciplinary teams both in and out of hours that elevate the role of GPs as medical experts in the community. At the same time we are tackling the issues here and now. £4.75 million is being invested in GP recruitment and retention, leadership and research including £2.5 million to examine and take forward proposals to increase the number of medical students choosing to go into GP training, as well as encouraging those wanting to work in rural and economically deprived areas. We are expanding schemes to encourage trained GPs to return to practice in the NHS, and increasing the number of training places for GPs by 33% - from 300 to 400.

“We are committed to supporting and enhancing primary care and the work of GPs and have been working closely with the BMA and Alan McDevitt to address any concerns about pressure on the sector. This commitment to work with the BMA to reduce workload led to the announcement in December, when 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.”

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