Warning GPs are 'at breaking point' amid calls to overhaul service

An Inverness GP has said increased workloads are driving doctors away from the profession.

British Medical Association say GPs believe shortages put patients at risk iStock

Scottish doctors are calling on the Government to urgently overhaul the country’s GP service, warning that it is almost at “breaking point”.

A survey by the British Medical Association found 77% of general practitioners feel GP shortages put patient safety at risk.

More than 85% of Scottish GPs have felt anxiety, stress or depression in the last year, meanwhile 65% do not think they have enough time with patients to allow for a comprehensive diagnosis for patient safety.

Dr Iain Kennedy works at a surgery in Inverness and is a member of the British Medical Association Council.

He said: “Doctors across the UK are telling us that working full time in general practice is seriously bad for their health. This is largely due to workload and lack of GPs.”

“There’s no doubt that GPs are feeling under enormous pressure. GPs do not feel that they have enough time with their patients, someone will maybe come in with four or five problems and often complex problems. 

“We do need more time with our patients but the issue is that we don’t have enough doctors.

“There’s a huge backlog of work. Twelve hour days are fairly typical.

“GPs are choosing to leave the profession, retiring early or emigrating, or choosing to go to less busy jobs elsewhere in the health service.

“I think we are very close to breaking point – in fact many practices have already gone beyond breaking point. Across the Highlands many practices have no GPs and are being run purely on locums alone. I would say that most practices across Scotland are one or two GP resignations away from closure.

“We need more nurses, pharmacists, physios, mental health workers. It’s not just GPs – we need bigger teams.

“Over the past two decades Governments have chosen largely to resource in hospitals so we have seen the number of doctors increase there but the numbers of GPs have remained static. 

“When I joined this practice 20 years ago there were seven GP partners. Today there are seven GP partners.”

A campaign’s been launched by the British Medical Association demanding that the Government rebuild the system, adding that nine in ten GPs think patients are not always safe at GP practices, with seven out of ten believing this will get worse over time.

The BMA recommends the safety limit for appointments is 25 patients a day, however Scottish GPs see 28 on average.

Sue Hood represented the Nairn and Ardersier Patient Group prior to the pandemic.

She said: “When the GP knew the patient they were in a better position to treat them as a whole. They knew the family background, they could weigh all that up in the diagnosis. 

“Whereas now you just see a GP who has notes of what your last prescription was and they are often in the dark as to what they are doing, and if someone isn’t very articulate, it doesn’t give an awful lot to work from. 

“There’s no continuity. I think it’s time to look at the system.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We have already delivered a record number of GPs working in Scotland, with more per head than any other country in the UK. 

“We’re committed to further increasing the number of GPs in Scotland by 800, by 2027. We are on track to meet that commitment and have also recruited over 2400 healthcare experts through the GP Contract to support practices.

“Trainee recruitment last year has so far been the most successful year of any of the last five, with 98% of GP training posts having been filled and the offer of a £20,000 bursary as an incentive to increase rural and other hard to fill vacancies.”

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