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More than one-third of practices close lists in one area

Practices across Scotland are being forced to stop taking on new patients due to the shortage of GPs, including around a third of practices in Lothian, figures suggest.

Currently 39 of 124 practices in the region are full and have put strict limits on accepting new patients, with fears this could rise to 50% of practices soon. 

GP leaders have arranged a summit with health bosses at the end of September to consider the options for relieving pressure on services.

Scottish GPC chair Dr Alan McDevitt warned the situation was reflected across Scotland and there was a ‘real risk’ it would happen more and more frequently if action was not taken.

Figures obtained by Pulse revealed:

  • seven of 69 practices have placed restrictions on taking on new patients in Tayside;
  • twelve of 58 practices in have closed lists in Fife;
  • three of the 242 practices in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde are operating closed lists.

Dr McDevitt said: ‘The BMA is working with the Scottish Government to develop a new way of working that once again makes becoming a GP an attractive career option, but to do this there must be an increase in funding to general practice and primary care that supports GPs in communities across Scotland.

Dr Iain Morrison, medical secretary of Lothian LMC said many practices, including his own, had ‘open but full’ policies which restricted registrations to new births or patients assigned to them by the Health Board.

In the east of Midlothian, lists are largely closed, he added.

A long-predicted population explosion in the area has not been matched by investment in general practice, he explained.

Dr Morrison said: ‘There has been disinvestment in primary care in the past decade and that’s been particularly felt in Lothian. We have arranged a primary care summit at the end of this month to look at what the board can do to promote primary care.

‘In the short-term we have to look at what ancillary staff are available to help general practice stay open, eg, development of the pharmacist within practice role.’.

Professor Alex McMahon, director of strategic planning for NHS Lothian, said the decision to restrict registration of new patients was never taken lightly but that it was a temporary measure to ensure ‘a safe and effective service’.

‘GP practices across Lothian are working hard to maintain access for patients but many are unfortunately facing difficulties in the recruitment of GPs – an issue being faced by surgeries across the country,’ he said.

This year, NHS England figures seemed to reveal that more than double the number of GP practices were forced to close their list to new patients in 2015/16 as the year before. NHS England figures obtained by the Sun showed 175 practices closed lists to new patients last year compared to 77 in 2014/15.