Comment: GP crisis becoming more acute

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THE words could not be more clear: general practice in the Lothians is teetering on the brink of collapse.

These are not our words but those used by Dr John Gillies, chair of the Royal College of GPs Scotland, a man who should know what he is talking about.

The Evening News has been highlighting this problem for more than a year now and urging immediate action. But, if anything, the problem is becoming more acute.

More doctors are retiring while fewer are entering the profession leaving practices overstretched and unable to take on new 

Those who are on the GP list are often receiving a poor service, having to wait weeks for routine appointments. Others have complained of practices who don’t even answer the telephone for several minutes.

Our story today reports that 27 of the 127 practices in Lothian have declared themselves “full” and placed restrictions on the waiting list – a significant increase on even three months ago.

The problem is not unique to Lothian, but is particularly severe due to the rising population.

Urgent action must be taken by the Scottish Government to help alleviate the problem in the short-term and to provider longer-term solutions.

After all, health is a sector already under Holyrood control.

How can we make an argument that life will be better under independence if a core area such as health – which MSPs already have say over – is failing before our eyes?

The Scottish Government spends millions on health messages designed to encourage more of us to visit our family doctor for checks of various kinds.

But what’s the point when so many people are finding it difficult to get access to our GPs? Health Secretary Alex Neil needs to put this at the top of his in-tray.