The Scottish Government is being accused of presiding over a system that is leaving doctors "exhausted and disenchanted".
A Freedom of Information (FoI) request published by the Scottish Government revealed 541 GPs and 221 dentists retired before reaching their state pension age between 2015 and 2018.
Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP has today said the Scottish Government is presiding over a system that is leaving doctors “exhausted and disenchanted”, after a freedom of information request published by the Scottish Government revealed 541 GPs and 221 dentists retired before reaching their state pension age between 2015 and 2018.
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Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “Hundreds of GPs and dentists have left their professions before reaching their state pension age.
“Many doctors are exhausted and disenchanted. At every turn the Scottish Government has mucked up workforce planning in the health service, while years of disinvestment has piled the pressure on primary care. The number of practices reporting GP vacancies has gone through the roof.
“To keep staffing levels sustainable and make medical careers attractive they need to make sure health professionals have the resources and backup they need to get the job done.
"Scottish Liberal Democrats are clear that we need to see an end to the neglect of primary care and an agreement to embed a mental health practitioner in every surgery, ending the scandal of long waits for this treatment and reducing some of the pressure on GPs. An annual report and parliamentary debate on workforce planning would also help prevent more mistakes in workforce planning.”
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According to the Royal College of General Practitioners Scotland, there will be a recognised shortfall of 856 whole-time equivalent GPs by 2021.
BMA Scotland’s Andrew Buist, who is Chair of Scottish GP Committee said: “There is no doubt that general practice in Scotland has faced significant difficulties not just in recruiting, but also in retaining doctors for some time now. Put simply, while we also need more GPs working in Scotland, we also need to do all we possibly can to keep those we already have and encourage them to continue working.
“That in particular means focusing on supporting GPs' own wellbeing in the face of the significant workload pressures we will continue to face for some time to come. It also means looking very closely at pension issues around taxation that can actually act as a disincentive for GPs to remain in post past the age of 55. The UK government must act on this urgently to retain GPs, and the BMA have been urging them to do so.
“But there are reasons to be optimistic thanks to the new contract, introduced in April last year, which is designed to ease inappropriate excessive workloads and make becoming a GP – and continuing to work as a GP - an attractive career choice once again. This has also seen the Scottish Government make important commitments to deliver additional health professionals to meet patient needs in communities across Scotland, as well as promising to train and recruit a further 800 GPs. A further important step forward from the Scottish Government has been the agreement to provide substantial loans to help GPs with the cost of owning premises, which can be a really important factor for GPs considering their future in the profession.”
Tory health spokesperson Miles Briggs, said: “These figures reinforce the importance of looking after those who look after us and making our NHS a place where health professionals want to work.
“Twelve years of SNP Ministers mismanagement of NHS Scotland has led to a situation where record numbers of doctors and nurses want to leave and we need to see change to reverse the damage caused to our health service.”