It has been revealed recently that in Scotland GP practices are closing at an average rate of one every two months and over the last decade the total number of GPs has increased 10% but the numbers who are aged 55 or over has increased by 43%.
This shows a worrying trend and highlights a problem with the recruitment of new GPs.
After the closure of a North East GP practice and the news that another has been forced to cut back on the number of appointments they could offer, I raised this issue in a parliamentary question to health ministers. The response I received indicated that the Cabinet Secretary for Health, Wellbeing and Sport visited Aberdeen to meet with GPs, local MSPs and NHS Grampian to hear directly from those involved about how best to support GPs to find new ways of working that address workload and staffing difficulties.
The Scottish Government also said that the health board has already begun work to address existing issues and we will be expecting them to engage closely with GPs and the local community as they begin to develop sustainable, ‘future-proofed’ primary care services.
Like so many of the problems our local health service faces, the issue of appropriate resourcing from the Scottish Government is a key factor in solving the problem. While Ministers have provided a response which indicates work is on-going to address this issue, without proper support our health board may struggle to ensure that demand is met.
In Grampian, we are lucky to have some of the most committed and able health professionals however we have seen recruitment problems in other areas such as nursing and allied health professionals as well as GPs. It is important that more work is done to attract the GPs and other health staff that we need but this starts with providing the health board with the resources they need.
It is vitally important that this issue is tacked and that there is a comprehensive strategy put in place to ensure that in the North East, our health board can assure patients that there are sufficient numbers of GPs to meet local need.
Without this it is clear that there is a crisis looming and that patient care will suffer as a result.