Union slams care crisis caused by overworked GPs

Pressure on GPs is mounting and the Evening News has led the way in reporting the crisis. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Pressure on GPs is mounting and the Evening News has led the way in reporting the crisis. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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A MAJOR new campaign is being launched to show GPs’ patients how crippling workloads and staff shortages are affecting quality of care.

The BMA’s UK-wide “Your GP Cares” campaign will aim to draw attention to how escalating demand is impacting on patient access and services.

The Evening News has already revealed how doctors in the Lothians say they are at “breaking point” amid growing patient numbers and an increasing ageing population.

Campaigners are hoping the trade union’s stance will pile pressure on politicians – forcing them to expand the overall number of GPs and practice staff as well as bringing the buildings up to standard.

Dr Alan McDevitt, chairman of the BMA’s Scottish GP Committee, said the problem was UK-wide.

He said: “This campaign demonstrates that regardless of which nation of the UK you look at, the challenges and demographic changes facing general practice are the same.

“We share the frustrations of our colleagues in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and want to work with our respective governments to deliver the best care we can to our patients.

“The public trusts and values general practice. We are at the heart of every community and are central to the success of the Scottish Government’s 2020 vision for healthcare and for the integration of adult health and social care.”

Lothians’ troubles were first highlighted in March when our investigation found a dozen surgeries in the Capital had closed their lists to patients with at least one unable to accept new patients for more than a year. Yesterday, one patient told how she had to wait seven weeks to get an appointment at a surgery in Bonnyrigg because she booked to see a certain staff member.

A shortage of prospective GPs graduating from medical schools is being blamed for a large part of the problem as more doctors retire early to escape the mounting pressures.

Predictions forecast the problem will get worse with NHS Lothian estimating the region needs another 33 GP surgeries to cope with growing needs.

Nearly a third of existing premises need extending or modernising as well.

Across Scotland in 2012-13, more than 24 million patient consultations took place – an increase of around 1.6 million since 2006. On average, patients visit a GP practice 4.4 times a year and more than ten per cent visited on ten or more occasions. By 2031, the number of people aged 75 or over will rise by 60 per cent from a decade ago and two-thirds of people aged 65 upwards, will have developed a long-term medical ­condition.

Mr McDevitt said: “In Scotland, the government has publicly recognised the importance of valuing the leadership that Scotland’s GPs can provide in developing services in local communities. They have acknowledged the need to manage GPs’ workload and have made a commitment to invest an additional £4 million in general practice in 2014.

“Whilst the Scottish Government has taken a positive first step towards building the capacity of primary care, we still need a long-term ­commitment.”