Responding to GP workforce statistics published today, Dr Andrew Buist, Chair of the BMA's Scottish GP Committee, said:
“These figures – which show falling GP numbers on both headcount and crucially WTE - back up the experience of our members who have consistently reported the huge challenge of meeting growing demand without the GPs needed to maintain good patient access. They are more evidence that not only are we not on track to meet the Scottish Government’s commitment for 800 GPs, when GP registrars are excluded, we are actually going backwards.
“This should be a massive wake up call to the Government. Last year’s figure was the lowest WTE figure seen for GPs since the workforce survey began and this year it has fallen further. Since 2013, the GP WTE workforce has fallen by 5.35% - a fall of 196.7 WTE GPs. In that same time period, the number of practices has fallen by 9%, average list sizes have increased by 18% and the total patient population has increased by 7%. Some 42% of practices reported at least one GP vacancy and that there were a total of 3,813 vacant weekly GP sessions. All this shows that it is no longer feasible or plausible to think we can simply go on as we are, believing we are on course to grow the GP workforce as required to care for the people of Scotland.
“We are often told GPs are the bedrock of the NHS – but on this evidence the bedrock is crumbling, and it is patients seeking access to their GP who will suffer as that becomes more and more difficult.
“At our recent LMC conference, the Cabinet Secretary made positive noises about prioritising primary care, but that needs to be backed up now by urgent action – including crucially increased direct investment into practices to allow them to focus on meeting the needs of local communities and recruiting the staff they need. Without that, I cannot see these figures getting any better and the idea of recruiting extra GPs anywhere near the 800 target will remain at best a distant prospect with increasing under-doctored areas and widening health inequalities. That threatens the very principles we built our NHS on, so there can be no more important issue, and no more delay to the urgent work to support GPs we know is needed.”
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.