By 2027, the Scottish Government has promised to increase the number of GPs in Scotland by 800 – a target the health secretary declared he was confident would be achieved.
His comments come as the Health and Care Experience Survey – a Scottish Government -backed initiative – showed there has been a dramatic fall in the level of public satisfaction with GP services.
Out of almost 130,000 Scots surveyed, people satisfied with the overall care provided by GP practices dropped by 12 percentage points in two years, with a third of people failing to rate their overall care positively.
When asked about their overall experience of their GP, 67 per cent of respondents gave a positive rating – a drop of 23 per cent from the first survey undertaken in 2009/10
Speaking on BBC Good Morning Scotland on Wednesday, Mr Yousaf agreed the survey made for difficult reading as he said access to GPs and other NHS staff had been limited due to social distancing measures in place during the pandemic.
He said: "There’s no doubt 2009 was a high watermark that we want to get back to. There’s no single doubt about that where we had nine out of ten people satisfied, but if you look at the data prior to the pandemic you will see we had eight out of ten people satisfied.”
Responding to the survey, Dr Sandesh Gulhane, health spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives, said the drop in satisfaction "lies squarely with the SNP Government, rather than our overstretched GPs”.
He said as a GP he was “acutely aware of the chronic shortfall in numbers across Scotland”, especially in rural areas.
The health secretary told the programme the Scottish Government, alongside health expert colleagues, was committed to increasing face-to-face appointments.
Mr Yousaf said this increase will be part of a “hybrid model”, incorporating video and telephone conversations, which he said many people would find “easier”.
Yet, he said, where clinically appropriate and when people want to be seen face-to-face, people will be able to do so as we move from pandemic to endemic.
The Scottish Government has promised to increase the number of GPs by 800 (20 per cent) by 2027.
The Health Secretary said: “I think we are on track to meet that target. It’s an extremely ambitious target, but what we are seeing is we are putting relentless effort and relentless focus into make sure that general practice is an attractive proposition for medical graduates to go into and we’ve seen really good fill rates."
Mr Yousaf added: “We are very confident that we will meet that 800 target by 2027.
"We are building on a strong base already and if we can increase the number of GPS, increase the amount of other professionals within a GP practice, [we] hope that all of that will help us meet the demand which is placed on GP services at the moment.”