More than a third of GP practices in Fife have declared their patient lists full, it has emerged.
NHS Fife has confirmed that 36% of all GP practices in Fife are no longer accepting patients unless specifically allocated by the Practitioner Services Division, deepening the current crisis in the local health service.
The extent of the problem emerged after the Dalgety Bay and Inverkeithing practice became the latest GP surgery to declare it was at capacity.
Lesley Laird, MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, has now called for action to stem the growing problem.
“I understand that over the past year or so the (Dalgety Bay and Inverkeithing) practice has lost up to three doctors as well as having to absorb extra patients after Park Road Surgery in Rosyth reached a full list in April 2016,” she said.
“The team is to be commended for struggling on under such pressures but, despite hiring advanced nurse practitioners and an in-house pharmacist – new roles which NHS Fife said last year were not reflected in the GP statistics – many medical issues require a GP and a surgery can only do so much to stem the tide of increasing demand.
“Fife’s patient numbers are growing, as are the health needs of an ageing population, and with fewer doctors – some reaching retirement – something has to give.”
Figures released by NHS Fife reveal 21 of 56 GP practices in the region now have full patient lists.
They range from Rosyth and High Valleyfield in the west to Leven and Kennoway further east.
Mrs Laird continued: “Kirkcaldy has had a long-standing problem with this issue over the past decade and seven practices have full lists currently, but a further six practices announced their lists were full in 2016, followed by another eight last year which clearly illustrates this is a deepening problem across the region.
“While residents will still be registered to a GP surgery through the NHS’ clearing system the growing demands being placed on a finite number of GPs is deeply worrying, as is the continuity of care being provided by locum doctors in the interim.
“Fife surgeries have the fourth highest average patient lists in the country – at the last count 6,827 per surgery – leaving some patients having to wait weeks for a standard appointment.
“The solution, of course, is to recruit more GPs, but recruitment drives have so far failed to bring in the numbers needed to meet the region’s health needs.
“Action has to be taken to address this growing concern and NHS Fife must publish its strategy to tackle it.
“NHS Fife should also clarify how many other surgeries across the region are close to declaring full lists too.”
Dr Frances Elliot, NHS Fife medical director, said no local practices have ‘closed’ lists, and all of them continue to be allocated new patients through Practitioner Services, which is where patients should apply when moving to a new area.
“It is also important to stress that Practitioner Services will always allocate patients to local practices within their area of residence,” she added.
“In line with the rest of Scotland, Fife is experiencing challenges in recruiting to some GP vacancies.
“Within our role with the Fife Health and Social Care Partnership we are working closely with GPs to support practices in maintaining and improving patient care.”