Family doctors concerned for patients’ health over shortage of GPs

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One of the top medics in Scotland has issued a warning that patients face ‘dangerous consequences’ due to a severe shortage of general practitioners.

The chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) in Scotland, Dr John Gillies, is due to deliver a petition with tens of thousands of signatures to Alex Salmond to request the First Minister’s intervention over proposed budget cuts. He says the proposed cuts will place patient care at risk, unless waiting times are reduced and patients can gain access to medical advice.

New research has shown that 10% of Scots give up on seeing their doctors due to the long waiting periods. It shows that this leaves them at risk of not having potentially life-threatening health issues diagnosed.

Dr Gillies said that when the crisis in general practice makes it clear that patient safety is being threatened, it is the Scottish Government’s duty to act. He added that further cuts to resources will only increase the problem
He added that they are aware of the GP recruitment problems in remote and rural communities, however the aging demographic of GPs currently in practice means that the problem will become bigger and more widespread in future.

He stated that this problem should be faced now and GP investment should be viewed as a priority.

A recent government survey indicated that on 3.3 million occasions, it took around three days for a patient to see a nurse or a doctor. New research has shown that 54% of Scots admit that the waiting periods are too high, with 75% stating that there are not sufficient GPs.

The survey also revealed that around one quarter of Scots experience problems when trying to get an appointment with their GP within one week, and around 11% simply give up on their bid to seek treatment.

The Tory health spokesman, Jackson Carlaw, said trying to obtain an appointment with a GP is one of the most frustrating things for people. He said the fact that 25% are unable to obtain an appointment within one week is totally unacceptable.

The RCGP has issued warnings that the planned cuts of 2.2% suggested in the 2015/2016 draft budget will push this current problem into a crisis situation. It is stated that investment in general practice in Scotland has decline by 3.9% since 2009/2010.

The health minister, Alex Neil, said that an £8.2m funding increase for GPs will help stave the problem. According to Mr Neil, during 2013, 87% of patients rated their overall care experience by GPs as good or excellent. He said the number of GPs has seen an increase of 5.7% under the current Government.

Image Credit: COMSALUD

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