GPs Feel Patient Numbers Pressure

An influx of immigrants from eastern Europe has stretched Scottish GPs to breaking point, according to the British Medical Association. Doctors have said they need more resources but the Scottish Executive has insisted that funding has increased by 48% since 2003.GP practices have seen 46,000 more patients registering since April 2005.

Health Minister Andy Kerr said the matter was being looked at as part of ongoing negotiations with doctors. He said the executive was committed to the notion that everyone in Scotland should have access to a GP.

The Labour politician added that he was “unimpressed” with the fact that GPs could “somehow think they can crank this up in the media and get us to respond”.

Mr Kerr added: “We are in negotiations and we will discuss these matters appropriately with the GP committee and I don’t think doing it through the media is appropriate.”

Scottish doctors have said they welcome the influx of new patient registrations, but they insist that the infrastructure must change in order to accommodate that growth.

Dr Stewart Scott, the deputy chair of the BMA’s GP committee, has estimated that a further 27 family doctors would be needed in Scotland and that some practices may have to turn patients away.

He said: “What we really need is a rise in the number of GPs rather than increase in funding, although I know the two can’t be split. Some 46,000 new patients represents 27 new GPs in Scotland and that is something we don’t have.”

Dr Scott said that communication issues had become a concern for GPs because a high percentage of the new registrations were immigrants.

He said: “GPs are having to use Language Line to cope with communication which results in consultations lasting at least 50% longer.

“The structure really hasn’t changed in the last three years. The government made wonderful advances with the new GP contract, which has improved patient care considerably.

“But the pressure on practices is risking patient care because the structure hasn’t grown to meet requirements. We need an increase in the infrastructure to allow us to look after the patients.”

The health minister said he was in the middle of negotiations on the matter, which he believed should continue.

Mr Kerr added: “There has been almost a 50% increase in the funding for GPs over the last three years but the population hasn’t increased by 50%.

“What we are doing now is using our GPs much more effectively, through the qualities and outcomes framework, to diagnose and prevent illness and use them much more creatively, and I want that to continue.

“This is not about how many people are on the roll, it is about what are GPs doing for our patients in terms of looking after their health.”

Scottish Conservative MSP Phil Gallie said: “During First Minister’s Questions yesterday I raised the issue of an over-demand on Scotland’s social, educational and health services as a consequence of the level of immigrants coming to work in Scotland following EU enlargement.

“In failing to understand the situation the first minister, in his usual blustering response, suggested that I was being discourteous to immigrants and offered no constructive comment.

“Today, Scotland’s GPs have underlined the pressures to which I referred, pointing to the situation in rural areas where GP practices were being overwhelmed by immigrant demand.”