Scotland’s family doctors are getting younger, according to analysis of latest workforce statistics over the past ten years.
The number of new GPs under the age of 45 working in Scotland’s NHS has increased by 4.5 per cent since 2008 – which means that 94 per cent of the growth in the GP workforce has come from young doctors joining practices across the country.
And younger doctors now make up 53.6 per cent of Scotland’s overall GP headcount, a modest increase over the decade but a trend likely to continue based on recent figures.
The total number of GPs has been shrinking and medical practices across Scotland are struggling to fill posts, with one in four reporting vacancies.
The Scottish Government has pledged to increase the number of GPs in Scotland by at least 800 over the next decade.
Statistics earlier this month showed a rise of 75 GPs in 2018, taking the overall number to 4,994. The figures also showed the number of women GPs had grown by more than a quarter over the last decade and they now make up 61 per cent of the workforce.
But other figures revealed the number of GPs in training had sunk to a five-year low.
The government’s plans to achieve its target include raising the number of medical places in Scottish universities to a record 1038 and creating new graduate routes into medicine.
But the SNP says Brexit poses a huge risk to Scotland’s NHS, with almost a third of European doctors working here considering moving abroad according to a survey by the British Medical Association.
SNP MSP David Torrance, a member of the Scottish Parliament health committee, said: “With Scotland’s overall population getting older, putting greater demands on our NHS, it’s encouraging to see our GP workforce bucking that trend.
“The Health Secretary has set out her ambition to recruit a further 800 GPs over the coming years to plan for those growing demands on services.
“That’s why the Scottish Government is raising the number of medical places at Scottish universities to an all-time high. But the fact is – Brexit could undo all of this progress in a single stroke, as the Tories put their narrow-minded obsession over curbing immigration before what’s best for our NHS.
Scottish Tory health spokesman and Lothian MSP Miles Briggs welcomed the increase in younger GPs but warned it would not resolve the national shortage. He said: “For the last decade general practice in Scotland has been in crisis and the long-term projections are still not good.”
And he said practices closing and GPs taking early retirement were evidence of the pressures. “The Royal College of GPs has warned that by 2021 Scotland will be 900 GPs short.
“Instead of self-congratluatory statements about the age of GPs, the SNP should be concentrating on getting back to the situation they inherited when they came to power.”