GP crisis sees 40% of Lothian surgeries turn away patients

GP surgeries are refusing to take new patients. Picture: Contributed
GP surgeries are refusing to take new patients. Picture: Contributed
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The full scale of Scotland’s GP crisis is deepening across local health boards with an increase in the number of surgeries imposing restricted patient lists.

More than 40 per cent of GP practices in the Lothians are now operating some kind of restriction which can be anything from refusing to take any new patients at present to limiting the number of registrations to a set number per week. There are no formal “closed” GP lists across the region as this requires an application process which requires NHS board consent but in effect a proportion of the 51 of the 122 general practices currently exercising restrictions are “informally closed” to new patients.

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.

Lothian region has seen a 17 percentage point rise in restricted practices up from 25 per cent in 2016 to 42 per cent at present.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 past three years with the latest being the Inverleith Medical Practice which shut its doors in June and catered for the needs of around 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.”

NHS Lothian has been forced to take over the running of ten practices with half of them restricting their lists – however no practices in the region have as yet closed 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 across the country. “The decision to restrict the number of new patients who can register at a practice is never taken lightly.”