Vale of Leven and Clydebank Health Centres.

By Bill Heaney

Primary care in Scotland is at ‘breaking point’ due to rising demand and SNP cuts, Scottish Labour has warned today.

Statistics published this week have shown that the number of patients registered with a GP in Scotland has risen to 5.930 million – some 1,697 per GP in Scotland.

At the same time, the latest data shows that for the month of January 2023 some 2,401,044 physical GP appointments took place – roughly 300,000 short of pre-pandemic numbers.

Fears are growing over the future of GP surgeries across the country, with a GP surgery in Invergowrie being earmarked for closure despite widespread local opposition and a petition with hundreds of signatures.

Readers of The Democrat will remember the former Health Secretary Shona Robison, below right,  went along with West Dunbartonshire Council’s Health and Social Care Committee’s decision to close Dr David Nelson’s GP practice at Dumbarton Health Centre.

This was despite protests that he had done nothing wrong – apart from a minor administrative error – and a petition from more than 1,000 of his patients to allow the popular GP to continue with his work.

At the height of the GP pandemic, Dr Nelson had to resort to locum sessions for work until he took his case to an employment tribunal, where the judge found the GP was not guilty of the misdemeanor alleged against him.

Dr Nelson, whose patients were transferred to the Levenside practice, is now happily back full-time with another practice at the Health Centre.

Shona Robinson has been promoted to Deputy First Minister at the Scottish Government despite the fact that she reneged on a promise to reinstate Dr Nelson at a meeting in Edinburgh with Democrat editor Bill Heaney.

Only last week, Dr Andrew Buist, chair of the BMA’s Scottish GP committee, notes that one in ten practices in Scotland have formally closed their lists to new patients, describing the situation as “simply unsustainable”. 

Whilst the number of patients rises, the SNP government has short-changed GP practices by cutting £5 million from the amount promised as part of the GP sustainability fund and £65 million from the Primary Care Development Fund.

Scottish Labour health spokesperson Jackie Baillie, pictured left,  said: “The facts are clear for all to see – primary care in Scotland is at breaking point.

“Scotland’s GPs are facing a perfect storm of increased demand and reduced funding – with primary care taking on more and more responsibilities due to the wider NHS crisis.

“Michael Matheson must recognise the scale of the crisis facing primary care in Scotland and act to bolster GPs across Scotland.”

Workforce survey year Total patient list WTE GPs Patients per WTE GP
2023* 5,930,000 3,494 1,697
2022 5,894,466 3,494 1,687
2019 5,769,985 3,613 1,597
2017 5,698,741 3,520 1,619
2015 5,627,467 3,604 1,561
2013 5,568,304 3,675 1,515
Source: General practice – demographics data visualisation; General Practice – GP workforce and practice list sizes, 2012-2022General practice workforce survey, 2022

BMA Scotland: General practice cannot sustain the pressures of this ‘full-blown crisis’ any longer. – BMA media centre – BMA

Perthshire village GP recommended for closure despite opposing petition with over 500 signatures – Daily Record

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