NHS crisis: Why mild-mannered doctors are becoming radical firebrands

The pressures on NHS Scotland, the cost-of-living crisis and increasingly poor working conditions have turned a once mild, professional conference into a theatre of firebrands and radical ideas.

The annual British Medical Association’s (BMA) Scottish Local Medical Committee is being held in Clydebank at the moment, and is an important opportunity for GPs to shape the trade union’s policy over the coming year. But this year, the anger rising from the conference is palpable.

The BMA’s Scottish GPs committee chair, Dr Andrew Buist, has already warned the Scottish Government risks sleepwalking into the slow death of general practice as they know it.

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Dr Buist said a recent survey of more than 1,000 GPs in Scotland painted a grim picture, and told the conference three quarters of respondents said the past year made them more likely to take early retirement or leave the profession. The same proportion said excessive workload made them more likely to reduce hours, and just 18 per cent would recommend general practice as a career.

Angry GPs have gathered in Clydebank for an annual conference

According to new figures, the estimated number of whole-time equivalent (WTE) GPs in Scotland has fallen from 3,613 in 2019 to 3,494 this year, leading the BMA to warn GPs are at “tipping point”, with some practices “collapsing”.

On the same day, the Grampian Local Medical Committee called on the Government to debate charging wealthier patients, similar to Ireland, to deter affluent patients from taking unnecessary appointments – just a week after the same group warned cuts to GP service risked the “collapse of the NHS”.

Patients are furious that primary care is so hard to access. GPs are furious that vacancies have gone unfulfilled, and cuts to primary care have heaped pressure on an already stretched system.

Doctors in hospitals, too, are furious, because more patients are presenting at A&E when they can’t reach their GP, and patients can’t be discharged from hospital because of a lack of staff and placements in social care.

That local community doctors – not known for flamboyance and hyperbole – feel the need to be so impactful with their language, and to suggest such radical ideas as charging for the NHS, shows the depth of anger felt in Clydebank.



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