GPs 'running on empty'

by Jennifer Trueland

BMA local medical committees conference hears of multitude of issues facing doctors

Location: Scotland
Published: Friday 1 December 2023
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GPs have sent a clear message to the Scottish Government that they are ‘running on empty’ – and need this to be addressed now. 

At the conference of Scottish local medical committees in Clydebank today, resources, workforce and workload were all cited as ‘negative’ parts of the job that were driving GPs away. 

GPs even backed exploring industrial action – warning that the status quo was harming patients, because GPs were over-worked and there weren’t enough of them. 

Louise Wilson, a GP from Ayrshire and Arran told the conference that she was celebrating 16 years in general practice – but that she had never worked so long or so hard. It’s not sustainable, she warned. 

Grampian GP Peter Watson (who has been a GP for 35 years) said that although he loved the job of being a ‘family doctor’, the Scottish Government had been relying on the goodwill of GPs for too long, and was showing ‘contempt’ for general practice. 

Borrowing language from junior medical colleagues, Stuart Blake from Lothian said that GPs had faced real-terms pay cuts for years.

While Borders GP Rachel Mollart said the relationship between Scottish Government and the BMA Scotland GPs committee had broken down, and called for other options to be explored. She said general practice was treated badly in comparison with other parts of the health service – while hospitals received winter funding, GPs got a ‘check list’, she said. 

SGPC chair Andrew Buist (pictured above) said ‘broken’ seemed the wrong word, but conceded there was a lack of political focus. Earlier, in his speech to conference, he said that general practice in Scotland was at a ‘tipping point’ and that the Scottish Government must take urgent action if it was to reverse the decline. 

Workforce issues were also high on the agenda. Ayrshire and Arran GP Simon Farrell said that GPs were burnt out, and called for long term solutions and investment, while Lothian GP Catriona Morton wanted more focus on retention of GPs at all stages of their career.