Warning city GPs stretched to ‘breaking point’

Doctors are struggling to cope with the rise in demand. Picture: PA

Doctors are struggling to cope with the rise in demand. Picture: PA

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EDINBURGH’S population boom is set to stretch GPs to breaking point with legions of new patients needing places at surgeries, it was warned today.

The Capital is the fastest growing city in Scotland – predicted to swell to 600,000 people in the next 20 years.

The Evening News revealed yesterday how many doctors are already struggling to cope with new patients currently being turned away from a dozen practices.

And a leading GP has warned new and extended surgeries must be built now – or people will not be able find a doctor in the city. Forecasts that the number of people aged 85 and over in Edinburgh will double by 2034 have led to fears the situation will soon be unmanageable.

Births are expected to outpace deaths by an average of 900 a year by 2025, combining with annual migration of 4200 people to Edinburgh.

Life expectancy among men has grown by six-and-a-half years in the past 25 years, and by five years among women, heaping pressure on the city’s already stretched GPs.

Dr Richard Williams, who works at Restalrig Practice, said: “It really cannot wait.”

“Our population is shooting up and most of us are in premises that need expansion or refurbishment to allow us to cope.

“We’re at our capacity and a lot of GP morale is extremely low because we don’t like being at capacity, we don’t like not being able to see patients or being able to do the quality care we would like to do. We are very distressed by this.

“The problem is when you’re so full and so busy, you just can’t provide safe practice. It’s not in the patients’ interest to allow more and more to register.”

The figures, based on projections published by the National Records for Scotland, recorded Edinburgh’s population at 486,120 in 2011. By 2035 it is tipped to reach more than 611,000, with the number of surgeries failing to keep pace.

Although Lothian GP numbers have increased from 716 in 2004 to 855 last year, Dr Williams said factors such as people living longer, have resulted in huge increases to workload.

“The population is growing and if you bear in mind that people will attend the surgery on average five times a year, for every 100 patients that’s another 500 consultations so the workload increases massively for just a small increase in patients.

“We need to invest now, we cannot really wait. There are practices that for a relatively small investment, we could increase our capacity and allow our list size to grow. We just can’t at the moment, we’re completely full.”

The city’s health leader, Ricky Henderson, said the 
rising population was “a challenge” but firm plans are in place to deal with it.

“There’s a plan in place to either create new practices or to extend existing practices and that’s a plan that’s ongoing to match the population growth.

“Every community will be different and the expansion of housing different in different parts of the city.

“We know what the projects are, what the need is and where we require to extend GP services and obviously that’s important to the public.”