GP practices in Scotland are at risk of “tumbling down” due to high demand and staff shortages, it has been warned.
A recent survey carried out by the British Medical Association (BMA) in Scotland has found that demand is succeeding capacity in 81% of the practices questioned.
Almost half of all the GP surgeries across the country completed the survey, which also revealed the lowest levels of public satisfaction with GP services in more than a decade.
Earlier this year, we revealed the exact levels of GP satisfaction for every region across the north and north-east.
BMA Scotland has estimated there may be as many as 312 full-time GP vacancies waiting to be filled.
Andrew Buist, BMA’s Scottish GP committee chairman, has said the system is not designed to cope with the volume of patients requesting appointments.
“I don’t think we have a first-class service anymore. We have a shortage of GPs,” he told BBC’s Good Morning Scotland.
“We’re absolutely doing our best. Our figures show that 500,000 appointments are given out every week in Scotland. Our system is not designed to cope with that volume.”
He added that GPs understand the frustration around being unable to book an appointment and the anxiety surrounding health.
Not enough GPs
Even though the Scottish Government has committed millions to recruitment across the country, Mr Buist believes the plans to increase GP numbers have only been “partially delivered” over the past five years.
He explained that GPs are retiring earlier due to burnout while younger doctors are not coming in as replacements in “sufficient numbers”.
Earlier this year, Kemnay Medical Group in Aberdeenshire reported the loss of four doctors due to working in a “pressured NHS system” – while facing an increase in demand for appointments.
“We need more openness from our government to explain what is going on,” Mr Buist continued. “This conversation cannot be left to the reception desk or the consulting room.
“From the very top, we need the government to explain to the public that we’re doing everything we can in these difficult circumstances.
“We’re not putting the resources into primary care into GP where it’s most needed. It is the foundation of the NHS, and if we undervalue it and under-resource it, it will crumble.
“And the rest of the healthcare system will come tumbling down.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We have already delivered a record number of GPs working in Scotland, with more per head than any other country in the UK.
“To support GPs, we have recruited over 3,220 healthcare professionals into multi-disciplinary teams working alongside GPS.
“We are committed to investing £170 million a year to help grow these teams and to further increase the number of GPs in Scotland. Any form of abuse towards NHS Scotland staff is unacceptable.”