GPs fear resourcing woes put patients at risk

Dr Amy Small decided to work part-time after her workload made her unwell. Picture: Sarah Turton
Dr Amy Small decided to work part-time after her workload made her unwell. Picture: Sarah Turton
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NINE out of ten of Scotland’s GPs are worried a lack of resources could be putting patient care at risk, a shock poll has revealed as another Lothian surgery closed its doors to new patients.

The survey commissioned by the Royal College of GPs Scotland found that 77 per cent of family doctors are concerned they will miss something serious with a patient because they are so busy.

More than half of the GPs who responded were planning to leave the profession or reduce their hours over the next five years as Scotland’s GP crisis deepens.

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A nationwide shortage of GPs has put family doctors under increasing pressure and many surgeries have struggled to fill vacancies.

Dalhousie Medical Practice became the third surgery in Bonnyrigg to close its list to new patients last week.

The Evening News revealed last month that one in four Lothian GP practices had restricted its lists to help doctors manage their workload.

Dr Miles Mack, chair of RCGP Scotland, said: “A wholesale departure of GPs now looks likely given the current conditions the profession faces. In that instance, patient safety clearly will suffer further.”

The RCGP poll also reported that 93 per cent of GPs think waiting times for appointments will soar without more resources. There have already been reports of patients waiting more than three weeks.

Tory health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said: “We support both the NHS budgets going up and the share that goes to GPs rising too. We want to see a new model of GP primary care and we will press any future SNP government to deliver this.”

An SNP spokesman said the party was committed to increasing the share of the NHS budget given to primary care and to increasing numbers of GPs by boosting the number of training places per year.

The spokesman said: “Our reforms will allow GPs to focus more on the patients who require their assessment, by bringing together a range of professionals in GP surgeries, including practice nurses, district nurses, mental health professionals, pharmacists, and allied health professionals.”

Eibhlin McHugh, of the Midlothian Health and Social Care Partnership, said temporary restrictions were never introduced lightly but it ensured practices could cope with pressure safely.

‘The workload was far too much’

The findings come as no surprise to Dr Amy Small, who decided to work part-time in 2012 after her punishing workload took its toll.

Dr Small was working a 55-hour week and struggling to cope with the paperwork and the number of patients she had to see each day. She now works three days a week, which allows her to enjoy her job again.

The Prestonpans GP said: “The workload was far too much and it made me unwell.

“It’s become more and more difficult for GPs to work more than three days without it impacting on their mental health. Morale is at an all-time low.”

She said many GPs want to work part-time so they can hold other roles but there are not enough doctors to fill these roles.

lizzy.buchan@edinburghnews.com