Problems with recruitment and retention of doctors has left the Scottish Government facing a “significant challenge” to increase the number of people working in GP surgeries, says the public spending watchdog.
A report published today by Audit Scotland said an ageing clinical workforce with more than one in three GPs aged 50 and over will make it difficult for the government to meet its target of boosting the number of clinicians by at least 800 over the next decade.
The watchdog highlights that only an additional 39 GPs were recruited as a result of £7.5m of recruitment and retention funding between 2015 and 2018.
Opposition parties criticised the Scottish Government with the Tories saying that the SNP is still “ill-equipped” for the current GP crisis.
A rise in Scotland’s elderly population is described as putting extra pressure on primary care services, with the number of people over the age of 75 living in the country estimated to rise by 27 per cent between 2016 and 2026.
The watchdog also highlights there being a lack of national data on current workforce numbers, costs, activity and demand.
A “data gap” makes it hard for the Scottish Government to plan the workforce effectively, the watchdog said, making it difficult to assess whether the new GP contract is achieving its aims.
Caroline Gardner, the Auditor General for Scotland, said: “Scotland’s primary care workforce is under pressure and operating in an uncertain climate. That makes detailed planning for the future even more important. To date, the Scottish Government has introduced major policy changes without a reliable basis for its plans.
“It now needs to get a much clearer picture of the workforce and set out detailed plans addressing how its initiatives will improve patient care and deal with future demand on services.”
Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary Miles Briggs said: “The GP crisis in Scotland has occurred on the SNP’s watch, and things don’t look like they’re going to get any better.”
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said:
“Today’s report from Audit Scotland highlights the vital role primary care plays in delivering our long term vision of shifting the balance of care towards community and preventative care.
“As we work to address the challenges in this area we are seeking to build on our record number of GPs by at least 800 in the next ten years. This is backed by our substantial annual increases in primary care and general practice funding.
“The new GP contract and investment in multi-disciplinary teams is increasing capacity in primary care.”