HEALTH experts have warned urgent action is needed to stop the emerging GP crisis as more doctors turn their back on the “intolerable” profession.
Doctors told MSPs at the health and sport committee more deprived areas are finding it increasingly harder to attract GPs as conditions get worse.
It comes weeks after an Evening News investigation revealed doctors in the Lothians are so busy one-in-six practices has turned away patients in the last year.
Dr Andrew Buist, deputy chairman of the British Medical Association’s Scottish GP Committee, said the situation had changed beyond recognition in a decade.
“We’re seeing the early signs of a workforce crisis starting to appear in general practice for several reasons,” he said.
“General practice has lost popularity with young doctors coming into the profession. Older doctors are leaving slightly earlier in their late 50s rather than hanging on until their early 60s. We’re also losing doctors in the middle of their careers.
“Last week women outnumbered men in terms of the GP workforce in the UK for the first time and I think that’s a good thing.
“But when they’re going to have their families, they’re not coming back into the profession and one of the reasons for that is that they’re frankly burned out – the workload is becoming intolerable.
“We’re battle-weary and it’s not something that is particular to practices providing care in deprived areas – it’s across virtually the whole spectrum of general practice.”
The doctor’s organisation said these conditions had also led to more people going part-time and made it difficult to recruit with locums needed to plug increasing gaps.
The stark warnings come after we reported at least 12 GP practices in the Lothians are currently unable to take new patients – including some whose lists have been effectively closed for several months.
Dr Buist spoke at the committee yesterday along with others from the medical profession, including Dr Pauline Craig, the head of equality at NHS Health Scotland and Dr John Budd, a GP at Edinburgh Access Practice and coordinator Lothian Deprivation Interest Group.
They say “integrated action” is needed to reduce the gap that exists between the health of those living in the poorest parts of the country and those in more affluent communities and said current welfare reforms had made matters worse.
Public Health Minister Michael Matheson said health inequalities “can only be solved by tackling the root causes of inequality” which went beyond the NHS.
He said: “Scotland’s health is improving, with people living longer, healthier lives. But despite our best efforts, deeply ingrained health inequalities persist. The problem cannot be solved with health solutions alone as health inequalities are caused by entrenched problems of poverty, unemployment and poor mental wellbeing.
“It is our belief that health inequalities in Scotland can only be solved by tackling the root causes of inequality, and taking the fight beyond the NHS.”