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New housing will overburden general practice, warns RCGP

Plans to build thousands of new houses across Scotland could have a major impact on an already overburdened general practice, the RCGP have warned.

Local housing planning committees must consider how local GP services will cope, the College said.

A single developer – Springfield properties – last week announced plans for new villages near Edinburgh, Perth, and Elgin as well as in Stirling and Dundee – which could mean an additional 21,000 needing a GP in those areas.

Ignoring the pressures that such proposals will have on existing GPs could result in unsafe care for patients, the RCGP said.

RCGP chair Dr Miles Mack said housing planners must take responsibility.

‘Any attempts to tackle Scotland’s insufficient housing supply must consider the impact upon local general practices, many of which are struggling to survive while serving the size of communities they are already responsible for.

‘Many GPs simply do not have the capacity to deal with larger lists of patients.

‘The planning system must take responsibility for the impact of decisions on GP services.’

The warnings come after figures suggest Scotland is losing around a GP a week – with a potential 600 practice closures across the UK by 2020 – and unless drastic action is taken some patients could be left with no family doctor at all.

At the rate of attrition – doctors quitting or retiring from general practice – shown in Scotland’s Primary Care Workforce Survey, 12 whole-time equivalent GPs will have been lost since mid-June, the College said.

This is in addition to the 830 GPs needed to get back to the ‘reasonable’ levels seen in 2009, the RCGP said.

GP surgeries in Scotland now carry out around 16.2 million consultations a year, said the RCGP who have published a video to counter the false assumption that being a GP is ‘run of the mill’ as part of a raft of strategies to boost recruitment.

Dr Mack said: ‘The startling realisation that Scotland will likely have lost a further dozen GPs even since the worrying workforce figures were published in mid-June will, we hope, encourage all concerned in the GP crisis to redouble their efforts.’

A Scottish Government spokesman said Scotland already had the highest number of GPs per head of population in the UK and a number of initiatives have been introduced to make general practice a more attractive option.

‘We are working with the BMA to agree a new GP Contract from 2017, and investing £85 million over three years to put in place long-term, sustainable change within primary care that can better meet changing needs and demands, including support for recruitment and retention.’