There is “no quick fix” to the GP situation which has threatened to plunge Arbroath primary care provision into crisis with the announcement a town practice is to end its NHS contract, a leading doctor has warned.
But Dr Andrew Buist, chairman of the British Medical Association’s Scottish GP committee has expressed confidence changes brought in two years’ ago are the correct direction of travel to support overworked doctors and help fill the gaps placing local communities under crippling pressure.
His comments came in the wake of confirmation 6,500 patients at Arbroath’s Abbey practice face an uncertain future with news of the practice’s decision to end their GP contract with NHS Tayside at the end of July.
The health authority has urged patients registered there to stay put while a rescue plan is formulated.
Brechin was hit by a similar situation a few years’ ago and Blairgowrie-based Mr Buist said the shortage of doctors – and a need for capital investment in GP practices – remained key issues.
“Right now there are simply not enough GPs in Scotland,” he said.
“Problems with excessive workloads have long been cited as a major reason why GPs are either leaving the profession, or choosing not to enter general practice in the first place – which in turn is leading to a serious and longstanding shortage in our workforce which can force practices to merge, or to terminate their contract.
“There is no quick fix for these problems, but the Scottish GP contract that came into force in 2018 is designed specifically to address inappropriate excessive workloads and improve recruitment and retention of GPs.
“We need to give the contract sufficient time to make the changes needed including the development of multidisciplinary teams that will ease the kind of pressures GPs report.
“But we also need to up the pace of change to make that happen too, before we, and the patients we look after, find ourselves critically short of primary care providers.”
Mr Buist highlighted the Abbey situation in a meeting with Scottish Government cabinet secretary for health Jeane Freeman this week in what he said was the context of emphasising the need to “press on” with the measures to tackle the problems.
“Practices can become de-stabilised, which puts incredible pressure on the remaining GPs and in turn on other practices in local communities.
“It will be interesting to see what the board decides to do with the Abbey contract. They are not far away from Brechin, which handed back its contract and is still in a very difficult situation.”
“They also need to make a capital investment in new premises. Less than 1% of what has been available for capital investment in Tayside has gone on GP practices and we are never going to attract doctors to buildings like Brechin and some of the others in Tayside where there are buckets collecting water coming through the ceiling.
“I absolutely do think we are on the right track with what we are trying to do. It is transformative, but we need to keep going,” said Mr Buist.