Sturgeon urged to tackle GP crisis amid fears of shortfall

Scotland could have a deficit of 830 family doctors by 2020 according to reports. Picture, John Young

Scotland could have a deficit of 830 family doctors by 2020 according to reports. Picture, John Young

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A WARNING that Scotland could have a “devastating” shortfall of more than 800 GPs in just four years has sparked fresh calls for Nicola Sturgeon to tackle the “crisis” facing family doctors.

Scottish Conservatives are calling on the First Minister to commit to spending more of the £12 billion annual health budget on general practice.

With the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) forecasting Scotland could have a deficit of 830 family doctors by 2020, the Tories want ten per cent of all health funding to go to GPs by the end of the decade.

Health spokesman Donald Cameron said the RCGP forecast “makes the scale of the GP crisis clear”.

A shortfall of that number in the GP workforce would be “devastating for communities across Scotland”, the Conservative MSP added.

Mr Cameron said: “Before the election, Nicola Sturgeon was on record saying GPs must receive a greater share of the health pot. Yet she’s been utterly silent on this since.

“We want to see at least ten per cent of health funding going to general practice by 2020. That will help ease the crisis we currently see in general practice.”

He spoke out as the RCGP warned the UK could have a shortfall of almost 10,000 GPs by 2020, which it says could leave 594 GP surgeries at risk of closure.

It is calling on the governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to come up with plans to boost the number of GPs in their areas, pointing to the NHS England plan which aims to recruit 5000 family doctors and an additional 5000 other members of staff for surgeries.

Dr Miles Mack, chair of RCGP Scotland, said: “Scotland needs hundreds more GPs and it needs them as soon as possible.”

Last week NHS bosses warned half of all Edinburgh’s GP practices could soon be turning away new patients as a lack of family doctors heaps pressure on struggling practices. Figures showed nearly a third of the Lothian’s 124 practices – and more than 40 per cent in Edinburgh alone – have been forced to restrict their patient lists to cope with demand.

Scottish Labour health spokesman Anas Sarwar said: “The SNP cannot continue to ignore the GP crisis – we are now looking at a shortfall of more than 800 family doctors by the end of the decade thanks to more than a £1bn cut from primary care under the SNP.

Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “We are now at crisis point and these figures suggest that we are still losing one GP every eight days.”

A spokesman for Health Secretary Shona Robison said: “Scotland already has the highest number of GPs per head in the UK and the number has risen to an all-time high under the SNP while we have increased the number of new training places for GPs by 100 across Scotland this year alone.”