The Scottish Government has been accused of presiding over a GP “crisis” after it was unable to provide figures on family doctors.
Labour MSP Neil Findlay said a shortage of doctors in general practice was making it harder for patients to get appointments and putting increased pressure on hospitals.
He criticised health secretary Shona Robison after she was unable to answer a parliamentary question about the number of surgeries suffering from a shortage of staff.
He said: “The SNP GP crisis has been a decade in the making but they don’t even know how many GPs they now need to make up the shortfall.
“This shortage of family doctors just increases pressure on hospitals as people can’t get an appointment at a local practice when they need it.
“It was the SNP Government who cut places for medical students and this is only set to get worse as more GPs approach retirement age or elect to work outside of Scotland. Practices across Scotland are understaffed and overstretched. We now need to see proper investment in primary care so that our health service, established in the 1940s, is fit for the challenges of the 2040s.”
Responding to Findlay’s parliamentary question, Robison said the results of a workforce survey would be published next month.
She said: “Numbers of vacancies for GP posts are not held centrally as this is a matter for individual independent GP contractors as employers.
“In Scotland we are transforming primary care, supported by £85 million of extra investment to put in place long-term sustainable change within GP services that can better meet changing needs and demands.
“We have also pledged to increase GP training places for medical students from 300 to 400 a year and are expanding schemes to encourage trained GPs to return to practice in the NHS.”
The health secretary said work was being undertaken alongside the British Medical Association and the Royal College of GPs to reduce workload.
Meanwhile, Scotland has seen a 27 per cent increase in applications from junior doctors as medics come north of the Border to escape a long-running row over pay and working conditions.
A report from the Foundation Programme, which coordinates placements for those leaving medical school, said the number of applications to junior posts in Scotland had increased from 696 in 2015 to 884 this year.
Dr Chris Sheridan, of the BMA Scotland’s junior doctor committee, said: “It perhaps should come as no surprise that an increased number of graduating doctors have chosen to apply to Scotland as their first choice.”