SCOTLAND is facing a shortfall of more than 900 GPs over the next five years as new figures paint a picture of a spiralling recruitment crisis.
Statistics from the Royal College of General Practitioners Scotland (RCGP) reveal that 915 new GPs will be needed to regain and maintain the coverage per head enjoyed in 2009, if the Scottish population increases at the highest estimate of predicted growth. If growth were to be at its lower predicted rate, 563 more GPs will be needed.
These findings are very worrying indeedDr Miles Mack
This comes as Scottish GPs have reported that soaring stress levels and unmanageable workloads were having an impact on patient care, as well as discouraging young doctors from joining the profession.
Dr Miles Mack, chairman of RCGP Scotland, called for “immediate action and radical thinking” from politicians to preserve the NHS in its current form.
He said: “These findings are very worrying indeed. There is clearly a desperate need for all Scottish politicians to put general practice at the front of their thinking and announcements and to emulate the commitments for England that political leaders there have given regarding sourcing and funding a much larger GP workforce.”
A third of Scots were unable to book an appointment with their GP within the Scottish Government’s 48-hour target, a new ComRes poll found, while 28 per cent could not book an appointment within a week.
Falling numbers of GPs will place further pressure on stretched accident and emergency departments as well as other parts of the NHS, according to Dr Mack, a GP in Dingwall.
He said: “The Scottish Government has unfortunately not yet faced up to the crisis in Scottish medical services.”
A new approach is needed to fix the current system, said Scottish Conservative health spokesman Jackson Carlaw.
He said: “The current model is failing with GPs giving up and new doctors staying abroad. We need a new model which encourages GPs to stay and others to return to Scotland.”
Scottish Labour’s health spokeswoman Jenny Marra said: “We need more doctors to ensure people get the care and support they deserve. We also know the reliance on locums is hurting the public purse.”
RGCP Scotland rebutted previous government claims the situation is under control, stating a 2013 workforce survey revealed only 35 whole-time-equivalent GPs had been hired from 2009 to 2013.
The organisation, which represents more than 500 doctors in Scotland, also called for transparency over the future of a £40 million primary care development fund announced in November.
Health secretary Shona Robison said the number of GPs in Scotland was the highest on record, having risen by 6.9 per cent to nearly 5,000.
She said: “The recently agreed GP contract aims to give the profession stability over the next three years – reducing bureaucracy and allowing doctors to spend more time with patients.
“And we will continue to work with the RCGP, the BMA and others to find innovative solutions to GP recruitment and retention challenges.”
An announcement is expected soon on how the primary care fund will be spent.