40% of GPs in the Lothians imposing restrictions on patient access

More than 40% of GP practices are now imposing restrictions on access. Picture; Greg Macvean
More than 40% of GP practices are now imposing restrictions on access. Picture; Greg Macvean

MORE than 40 per cent of GP practices in the Lothians are now imposing restrictions on patient access, a rise of 17 percentage points in the last year.

The scale of the problem across the region has been laid bare as the Evening News reveals 51 of the 122 practices currently have limits.

Some are operating what amounts to “informal” closed lists with messages on their websites telling would-be patients to contact the health board.

There are no formal “closed” GP lists at present as this requires an application process and NHS board consent.

Lothian has seen another 17 per cent of practices become restricted, up from 25 per cent in 2016 to 42 per cent.

Every NHS board in Scotland is obliged to provide a patient with a GP. However, the restrictions can apply to choice and often mean people do not have access to a doctor in their catchment area.

The British Medical Association (BMA) said the latest 
figures were “concerning”. Dr Alan McDevitt, Chair of the BMA’s Scottish GP Committee, said: “It is concerning that so many practices in Lothian have been forced to take the decision to restrict their lists.

“This highlights the extent to which workload and problems recruiting GPs are affecting practices and jeopardising their ability to provide safe care for their patients. The BMA is currently negotiating a new contract for GPs in Scotland which we hope will address the significant workload pressures that are currently being felt by GPs and their practice staff.”

A total of five GP practices have closed in Lothian over the last three years, the latest being the Inverleith Medical Practice which shut its doors in June and catered for 4,000 patients.

Shadow Health Secretary Miles Briggs MSP said: “The fact that over 40 per cent of GP practices within NHS Lothian are either full and not accepting new patients or are restricting registration is an indication of just how stretched GP services are across the region.”

NHS Lothian has been forced to take over the running of ten practices with half of them restricting their lists.

David Small, Primary Care Policy Lead, NHS Lothian, said: “GP practices across Lothian are working hard to maintain access for patients but many are unfortunately facing difficulties in the 
recruitment of GPs – an issue being faced by surgeries across the country. The decision to restrict the number of new patients who can register at a practice is never taken lightly.”

He added: “However, this temporary measure does allow practices to cope with pressures and ensure they can continue to provide a safe and effective service.

“The four Health and Social Care Partnerships and NHS Lothian are working closely with local GPs to provide advice and support, and to enable restrictions to be lifted.”

A message on the home page of the Liberton Medical Group states: “As of Wednesday 1 June 2016 our practice list will be closed, we will not be accepting new patients until further notice, apologies for any inconvenience.”