Questions over GP services

South Scotland MSP Michelle Ballantyne.
South Scotland MSP Michelle Ballantyne.

The pressure on Midlothian’s GP surgeries due to increased patient rolls and reduced numbers of doctors has been raised in Parliament by MSP Michelle Ballantyne.

During a recent debate organised by the Scottish Conservatives, MSPs heard that one Scottish GP surgery closes or is handed back to health authorities every month, and it was claimed that there are not enough new GPs trained to replace those retiring or leaving the profession.

Mrs Ballantyne raised concerns over the potential impact increased housebuilding and growth in the area could have on GP surgeries, and cricitised the SNP Government for their ‘cut-and-paste’ responses to her questions.

She said: “We have a crisis of recruitment, a crisis of resources, and a crisis of confidence in the SNP Government. The First Minister was warned in 2008, whilst she was Health Secretary, that a ‘workforce crisis’ was imminent, with too few GPs being trained to replace those who leave or retire.

“This crisis is particularly stark in Midlothian. Seven out of 13 GP surgeries in Midlothian now operate a restricted list. Midlothian is the fastest growing local authority area in Scotland. The influx of new housing and new families, all needing a GP, will exert further pressure on local surgeries.

“I submitted written questions to the Cabinet Secretary, in the hope of clarifying for my constituents exactly what the Government is doing to support these surgeries. One question was on action to improve GP recruitment in Midlothian, the other was on what discussions the Government has had with Midlothian GPs around the impact of increased housebuilding.”

Replying to Mrs Ballantyne, health secretary Shona Robison said that under proposals put forward as part of a new contract for GPs, doctors’ workload would be reduced through the expansion of primary care teams, freeing them up to focus on their role as expert generalists.

She said: “This will give GPs a more fulfilling role, with more time to see and treat the patients that need them most.

“There will be new investment in expaned teams of health professionals in practices which may include pharmacists, nurses, physiotherapists, paramedics, community mental health workers and non-clinical support workers.

“The new contract aims to reinvigorate general practice and turn it into a positive career choice for existing and future GPs.”