A career as a GP must be made not just bearable, but attractive once again, or “we will sleepwalk into the slow death of General Practice as we know it”, the chair of the BMA’s Scottish GP Committee said today.
Dr Andrew Buist, who will address the first in-person Scottish Local Medical Committee (SLMC) conference since 2019, said we are at a “tipping point” for general practice in Scotland and the Scottish government must act quickly to prevent more practices collapsing as GPs leave or cut hours due to the current relentless demands of the job.
A recent wellbeing survey of more than 1000 GPs in Scotland found:
- Only 18% of those who responded would currently recommend general practice as a career choice, compared to 28% last year.
- Three quarters – 75% – of those who responded said the past year has made them more likely to take early retirement or leave the profession, up 5% on last year.
- Additionally, 75% said they were more likely to reduce their hours as a result of the excessive workload over the past year – up from 67% last year.
Dr Buist said: “I have been a GP for 30 years – I am proud to call myself a GP, it is a job with huge potential for job satisfaction in helping patients in sickness and to live well – but we are at a tipping point for general practice. In recent years the sheer volume of workload in excess of our capacity has made the job unbearable at times. The most worrying finding in our recent wellbeing survey was that only 18% of GPs who responded said they would recommend a career in general practice. It is equally concerning that 75% of GPs asked said the last year makes them more likely to retire early or leave the profession altogether. While understandable, given the huge pressures, this will only make things even harder for those left behind.
“I admit I am now in the 82% who would not immediately say yes to recommending a career as a GP – but I desperately want to be able to do so again. Being a GP has been, is, and can continue to be, a hugely rewarding career choice but we need a new vision for primary care with sufficient GPs with the time and the backup of a full multi-disciplinary team, to allow GPs to focus on being expert medical generalists.
“Without this change we risk sleepwalking into the death of general practice as we have known it. We can make general practice a great career choice again – at the heart of this must be making working as a GP not just bearable and manageable but actually getting the joy and satisfaction back into the job. I want to be able to unreservedly recommend being a GP to every young doctor in training, medical student and potential medical student I meet – and my challenge to the Scottish government is for them to now finally deliver the direct investment to recruit the GPs we know are needed to make that happen. Listen to us, work with us – the people of Scotland are being let down, please give us the tools we need to stop that from getting any worse.
“Once again, we make the plea for a national conversation on the future of our NHS – honest and open communication involving the public, politicians from all parties, key stakeholders, clinicians and other healthcare workers. What should we expect from our NHS, how are we going to properly fund it and how can we deliver it? We need to build a realistic, achievable health and care vision of what we in Scotland can provide within the constraints of care provision that remains free at the point of delivery. That is what matters, and we must grasp the opportunity for change before it is too late.”
Notes to editors
The BMA is a professional association and trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.