Miles Briggs: Ills of GP surgeries not addressed

Scotland's GPs are under pressure
Scotland's GPs are under pressure
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Anyone who’s tried to get a GP appointment across the Lothians in recent years will know just how difficult that has become.

The inbox of every MSP is full of complaints from constituents about the sheer awkwardness of simply securing a slot at their local doctor within a reasonable timeframe.

Miles Briggs MSP

Miles Briggs MSP

Last week, these anecdotes were backed up statistically by an official report into the staffing and resource strength of general practices all over Scotland.

The general theme was one of increasing patient demand being addressed by dwindling workforces.

Nationwide, one in four practices has a GP vacancy, while 90 per cent of practices have been forced to use locums in the last 12 months alone.

Most worryingly for patients in and around Edinburgh is this statistic: just a quarter of GPs carry out eight or more sessions a week – a measure which equates to a full-time role.

That’s the lowest in the country and reveals that, while the headcount of GPs in the Lothians may be healthy enough, the number of hours being worked is far from it.

This can be explained by a number of factors, not least an ageing workforce, although the study did note older doctors were more likely to take on out-of-hours work than their younger counterparts.

It’s statistics like this which motivated the Scottish Conservatives to launch the Save Our Surgeries campaign. That will see us reach out to family doctors across Scotland to gather their views on where the system is going wrong, and what can be done to address it.

The campaign also calls for general practice to get a larger slice of NHS funding.

After all, GPs are the gatekeepers of the NHS; if they are not well enough equipped to deal with patients, that burden will then fall elsewhere in the health service.

It’s in everyone’s interest to have a general practice workforce fit for purpose and stocked-up to deal with the future.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was challenged on this very issue in the Scottish Parliament last week by Ruth Davidson.

We feel that, after more than 10 years in sole charge of the health brief, the SNP government should have done more to look after GPs and make sure they had sufficient staff to cope with an ageing population and evolving health challenges.

Instead, she talked only about things that may or may not happen in future. That’s not good enough, and the patients and hard-working GP staff deserve better

Miles Briggs is Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary and a Lothians MSP.