South Scotland MSP and Shadow Health Minister Colin Smyth has used a Parliamentary debate on GPs to urge the Scottish Government to take action to tackle the GP crisis facing Dumfries and Galloway.
The local MSP highlighted the shortage of General Practitioners in the region and warned that with 26 GPs set to retire in the next five years, the region faces a “ticking time bomb” when it comes to GP cover.
Speaking during the debate Colin Smyth told Parliament, “In Dumfries and Galloway, the number of GPs has fallen from 134 in 2012 to 118 in 2016. Villages such as Wanlockhead have lost their outreach surgery because of a shortage of GPs in the Moffat area who provided that service, and admissions to Thornhill hospital were closed because the local GP practice providing the cover at the hospital could not fill its vacancies”.
“That practice is not alone. 42 per cent of practices in the region have a vacancy—that is 16 posts—largely unfilled for six months. NHS Dumfries and Galloway has had to take over the running of two GP practices, and that number is set to rise. The problem is set to get worse, with 26 GPs in Dumfries and Galloway aged over 55 and likely to retire within the next five years.
In addition, as a result of Brexit, applications from the European Union for health posts in the region have all but dried up. It is, frankly, a ticking time bomb—a crisis that is happening on the watch of this Government, and a crisis that the Government should have seen coming.
In 2008, Audit Scotland called on the Scottish Government to collect comprehensive data on GP and GP practice staff numbers to support proper workforce planning. In 2014, the Royal College of General Practitioners warned that the underfunding of GPs was putting patients at risk; yet, by 2015-16, the proportion of NHS spending that was allocated to GP services was at an all-time low”.
Colin Smyth outlined in the debate the need for solutions. He added, “Urgent action is needed. Professional bodies across the primary care sector support a move towards a multidisciplinary approach in GP practices to take pressure off GPs. There are clear examples of successful models such as the Govan SHIP project, which show that, if general practice is properly funded, major benefits can be achieved for patients, for GPs’ workload and for recruitment and retention”.
The local MSP urged the Government to increase funding to GPs to 11% of the NHS budget. He said, “Funding is the key, whether that is for a proper, high-profile recruitment campaign that reaches beyond the EU or an increase in the share of funding for general practice, which fell from 9.27 per cent in 2006-07 to just 7.2 per cent in 2015-16. Without fairer funding, there is no doubt that the crisis that we face in GP practices will continue”.
You can read the full speech here:
And watch the debate here: