More than a third of Scottish practices have reported at least one GP vacancy, compared to just over a quarter this time last year, the BMA has warned.
Having surveyed 46% of Scottish GP practices, BMA Scotland demonstrated that demand is ‘significantly outstripping capacity’.
And they warned that this has repercussions for patient safety.
The survey found:
- 34% of practices reported having at least one GP vacancy, which is an increase of 6% from last year.
- 81% of respondents said that ‘demand exceeded capacity’, with almost half of them claiming it was ‘substantial’.
The research demonstrated ‘no improvement in capacity over the past 12 months’, despite half a million appointments being delivered each week across Scotland.
It also showed that staff abuse had worsened since the previous BMA survey in October 2021, with from 65% of practices reporting abuse. Only 2% said that the abuse situation had improved.
BMA Scotland said it is now ‘essential’ to boost GP numbers, including via greater retention.
BMA’s Scottish GP committee chair Dr Andrew Buist said: ‘Recruitment is essential – but we also need a renewed focus and commitment on the retention of GPs so we can boost overall numbers. We cannot allow things to get any worse – it will be catastrophic for the system if they do.’
He added: ‘Doctors are leaving the profession because they are exhausted, burnt out and cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel.
‘We are now looking at serious issues of patient safety and staff safety – a burnt-out and exhausted GP simply cannot provide the level of care our patients need and deserve.’
He also addressed the recent funding cuts, saying they ‘should be restored urgently’.
Last month, Pulse reported on warnings that a £5m cut to a previously agreed sustainability fund for Scottish GP practices will negatively affect patient care.
Dr Buist said: ‘The signal that recent funding cuts to General Practice sends is hugely disappointing. We hear lots of warm words about the importance of GPs and multi-disciplinary teams that support them – but having this vital money cut off suggests they are not being backed up at all by actions.’
‘Indeed, it threatens to undermine practices, at the exact moment when we should be doing the opposite and shoring them up against what threatens to be a winter worse than any we have experienced,’ he added.
Ahead of winter last year, the Scottish Government and BMA agreed to a £30m pot of funding, which was to be paid in two £15m instalments in December 2021 and April 2022.
However, due to rising inflation, the Scottish Government cut the pre-agreed fund last month.