Scottish doctors are calling for urgent action to tackle a workforce crisis threatening primary care.
A UK-wide conference of family doctors later this month will hear that a lack of new GPs and large numbers retiring means local services are at risk.
The debate is being led by doctors from Ayrshire and Arran, who highlighted their own local problems recruiting GPs in recent years.
The doctors’ warning comes after Holyrood’s health committee was last month warned of a growing crisis among Scotland’s GP workforce as “intolerable” conditions drove doctors away from the profession,
The British Medical Association GPs conference in York – General Practice: Facing the Future – will hear calls for UK governments to “prioritise the workforce crisis that is threatening primary care and the safety of our patients”.
Dr William McAlpine, from Ayrshire and Arran Local Medical Committee, said their region along with others around the UK was having problems covering both day and night work.
“As far as daytime work is concerned, practices are reporting they are finding it more and more difficult to recruit GPs to come to work in Ayrshire, both to work as partners and sessional doctors,” he said.
“Doctors who are going away for six months on maternity leave are finding it particularly difficult to get local cover to cover their absence. Finally, to cover pressure periods during holidays, practices are finding it more difficult to find doctors to provide one-off sessions.”
Dr McAlpine said more than 20 per cent of the 260 GPs in his area were aged over 55, and that it was also more difficult to get young doctors to train as GPs.
He said they should have around 18 GPs to train in Ayrshire each year, but last year there were only eight.
Other pressures include a growing number of female GPs wanting part-time work, as well as both male and female doctors only wanting GP work for part of their working week as they develop “portfolio careers” in different parts of the NHS. Dr McAlpine said also the workload was increasing due to the move from secondary care to primary .
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Not only has this government delivered a 10 per cent rise in investment in primary care since 2006-7, there are now more GPs per head of population in Scotland when compared with NHS England.”