Alex Cole-Hamilton: GPs struggling to cope with ageing population

File picture: Ian Georgeson
File picture: Ian Georgeson
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FACED with an ageing population and worsening terms and conditions GP practices are struggling to cope, says Alex Cole-Hamilton.

Not a single new medical centre has been established in west Edinburgh in the past 45 years.

Within my first week as a new MSP I was contacted by three separate patients from East Craigs and Park Grove Medical Centre about the length of time people were having to wait for an appointment.

It turns out that doctors at East Craigs were handing out letters with prescriptions asking patients to raise the problem with me directly, given that they currently can’t fill vacancies for a third of partnerships in their practice.

The GPs who work there are fighting valiantly to get through the workload but they have had to close their lists to new patients.

Our city’s GPs have been hit by a perfect storm in recent years – an ageing and expanding population, worsening terms and conditions and fewer trainees coming up the ranks have made a career in general practice far less attractive than it used to be.

Our city council’s approach to planning has only compounded matters. Take Ladywell Medical Centre, for instance. Ladywell has been at capacity and just keeping its head above water for some time now.

However, with the approval of the Garden City development at Gyle by the planning committee of the council last week (against the advice of officials) there had been an expectation that Ladywell could have to accommodate some 4000 additional patients from the development, something partners have told me that they simply could not sustain. As with roads infrastructure, schools and local amenities, access to a GP surgery is always something of an after-thought when it comes to new housing in the city.

It’s one of the reasons I am campaigning for a moratorium on housebuilding in the west of the city, which plays host to two of the most congested stretches of road outside of the M25.

I challenged the First Minister about this in parliament last month and whilst the Scottish Government are trying to boost the number of training places available, without making the profession attractive once again by reducing workload and improving conditions those new places will remai

• Alex Cole-Hamilton is the Lib Dem MSP for Edinburgh Western