The Scottish Government has been criticised for being unable to provide figures on how many GPs are registered with the GMC but not practising.
Liz Smith, MSP for Mid-Scotland and Fife had asked for the figures in a parliamentary question but in response, health secretary Shona Robison said they did not exist.
Ms Smith called on the figures to be collated to help encourage more GPs back to the profession and to help the government get a handle on the GP crisis.
It comes as BMA figures show that close to one in three practices in Scotland are reporting a vacancy – up from one in five in the previous year. A BMA survey found that the proportion of GP practices with at least one vacancy now stands at 28%, up from 17% last year.
Ms Smith said: ‘At a time when our GP services are stretched to the edges you would hope that the Scottish Government would have some idea of the number of GPs that are registered to but not practising.
‘Enticing more of these people back to the profession, whether it be those who have left to start a family or those on a career break, will be crucial if we are to plug the gaps in general practice.
‘It is scandalous that the Scottish Government does not have these figures to hand and I have called on Shona Robison to provide them in the future.’
But Ms Robison said such data would be difficult to collect in a meaningful way.
‘There are a wide variety of reasons why qualified GPs might choose to leave the profession or stop practicing for a period of time.
‘It would be very difficult to collect accurate data on this that could make any meaningful contribution to policy development.’
She added they were working hard to support GPs and improve primary care services with an extra £500m investment by the end of this Parliament.
Scottish GPC chair Dr Alan McDevitt said: ‘While it’s important that we have as much useful data as possible to help address the ongoing recruitment and retention difficulties in general practice, it seems unlikely that robust information on how many registered GPs are not currently practising could be gathered.’