The number of GP practices in the Lothians imposing restrictions on patient access has gone up again, leaving thousands of people across the region at risk of being left without a doctor.
Fifty four of the 123 medical practices in the area have placed sanctions on their patient lists, according to the latest figures obtained through a Freedom of Information request.
This has risen from 40 per cent in August to 44 per cent as of this month, which includes four more surgeries imposing restrictions in the first few weeks of the year. Estimates suggest 618,978 people will live in Edinburgh by 2037, compared with 498,810 in 2015 – a rise of more than 120,000 in just over 20 years.
Thousands of new homes are being built across the region leading to fears a lack of GP capacity will leave the existing medical practices unable to cope. This year alone, the University Medical Practice, Mill Lane Surgery in Leith, the Leith Mount Medical Practice and Sighthill Health Centre have resorted to imposing restrictions. These amount to “informal” closed lists such as at the Leith Mount Medical Practice where the restriction is only accepting 20 new patients a week.
Every NHS board in Scotland is obliged to provide a patient with a GP. However, restrictions can apply to choice and often mean people do not have access to a doctor in their catchment area.
Dr Tracey Gillies, medical director at NHS Lothian, said the health board had nine practices that come under the direct management of the Edinburgh Health and Social Care Partnership, with five of them operating temporary restrictions.
She added: “We do not believe that directly managed practices should operate with restrictions on the basis that the NHS Board has a duty to ensure registration with a general practice. We know restrictions also have a knock-on effect on neighbouring practices and for those reasons, we are working with the Edinburgh Health and Social Care Partnership to begin lifting restrictions as soon as possible.”
Examples of restrictions include limiting new registrations to people moving into the area, allowing new registrations only on one day per week or limiting new registrations to members of the same household, the health board said.
Labour MSP Daniel Johnson said: “Remarkably, four more practices have become restricted since the start of 2018.
“Edinburgh and the Lothians has an expanding population and people need access to GPs. Without more capacity, we are only pushing problems further down the system into hospitals.”