NHS crisis: GPs are 'exhausted and burnt out' due to Scottish Government mismanagement, says BMA

Scottish GPs are “exhausted, burnt out and cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel”, the British Medical Association (BMA) has declared, amid warnings there are now “serious issues of patient safety” in NHS Scotland.

Dr Andrew Buist, chair of the BMA’s Scottish GP committee, said the situation was “continuing to deteriorate”. A survey conducted by the BMA revealed more than a third of GP surgeries have vacancies they are struggling to fill.

Dr Buist said: “The majority of GP surgeries are saying there is simply not enough capacity to meet demand for care. However, I am deeply disappointed that there has been no improvement at all in 12 months despite pledges from the Scottish Government to support general practice and recruit more doctors.

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“Indeed, Covid was a much more prominent factor impacting capacity when this survey was last conducted – now that is simply not a viable explanation for the huge imbalance we face. We need up to 1,000 more WTE [whole time equivalent] GPs right now and I am concerned the Government may not be on course to meet its target on delivering 800 additional GPs by 2027.

Scotland’s health secretary Humza Yousaf is under pressure over GP shortages and A&E waiting times. Picture: PA
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“This would be disastrous for Scotland and our patients. We are now looking at serious issues of patient safety and staff safety – a burnt-out and exhausted GP simply cannot provide the level of care our patients need and deserve.”

Dr Buist has called on the Government to reverse planned funding cuts of £70 million this year, which were due to support the sustainability of practices and multi-disciplinary staff members who work with GPs.

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“The signal that recent funding cuts to general practice sends is hugely disappointing,” he said. “We hear lots of warm words about the importance of GPs and multi-disciplinary teams that support them, but having this vital money cut off suggests they are not being backed up at all by actions.

“Indeed, it threatens to undermine practices, at the exact moment when we should be doing the opposite and shoring them up against what threatens to be a winter worse than any we have experienced. The funding should be restored urgently.”

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Scottish Labour health spokesperson Jackie Baillie said: “This damning survey reveals what we already know – Scotland's under-supported GPs are buckling under the pressure of the SNP’s neglect for our health service.

"GPs are on the frontline of this crisis, but they have been failed time and time again, with Humza Yousaf cutting cash to them earlier this month in just the latest example of the SNP asking GPs to do more with less.

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“It is shocking that the very same health minister who is cutting support to GPs is telling Scots to present to GPs instead of our overheated A&E departments. We can’t go on like this.

“It’s time for proper support for all of Scotland’s GPs and it is time that we saw the back of this do-nothing health minister.”

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Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary Dr Sandesh Gulhane said: “At the heart of the damning findings of this survey is the SNP’s dire workforce planning which, even before the pandemic, left GPs and practices under incredible pressure. That was only exacerbated by Covid and the SNP’s failures to step up and support GPs like myself.

“The SNP have slashed £65m from the primary care budget as well as £5m in crucial support payments, meaning GPs will be trying to meet patient demand with even fewer resources.

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Patients will be the ones who suffer as a result of the failures of Humza Yousaf, who is completely out his depth as health secretary. His inaction is meaning patients are being told only to turn up to A&E departments only in life-threatening situations, which is just adding to the burden on GPs.

“GPs are facing an ever-deepening crisis on Humza Yousaf’s watch and this survey lays that bare. Patients and GPs have no faith in him to get a grip of this situation and that is why Nicola Sturgeon must sack him.”

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A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We have already delivered a record number of GPs working in Scotland, with more per head than any other country in the UK. To support GPs, we have recruited over 3,220 healthcare professionals into multi-disciplinary teams working alongside GPS. We are committed to investing £170m a year to help grow these teams and to further increasing the number of GPs in Scotland.

“Any form of abuse towards NHS Scotland staff is unacceptable.”

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