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A quarter of GPs in Scotland plan to leave their practice within two years

by Julie Griffiths
18 August 2023

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A quarter of GPs in Scotland are planning to leave their practice in the next two years, while three quarters say the last 12 months have made them more likely to leave the profession entirely, a BMA Scotland survey has found.

The findings prompted the BMA to warn that primary care in some areas of Scotland is at risk of ‘breakdown’ unless urgent action is taken to address workforce and workload issues.

The BMA Scotland GP wellbeing survey revealed the toll on doctors, with 85% of GPs in Scotland saying they sometimes, or regularly, struggle to cope and work is having a negative impact on their physical and mental wellbeing.

Of the 864 GPs who responded, 28% said that their current workload is unmanageable and 43% said there is ‘no realistic chance’ of their practice being able to meet patient demand for access in the near future.

BMA Scotland GP committee chair Dr Andrew Buist said general practice in Scotland was facing a ‘bleak situation’ and it was likely that ‘things are only going to get worse’.

‘The current demanding situation is taking its toll on GP wellbeing – generally GPs are a very robust group of people, but we are just human, and everyone has a limit,’ said Dr Buist.

Just 5% of GPs in Scotland believe their practice has a sustainable long-term future with nearly a third (30%) saying their surgery was already in a precarious position, the poll found.

The survey also revealed 5% of GPs have already or are actively considering handing back their contract.

Dr Buist said: ‘These statistics show once again just how precarious the position is for practices and GPs themselves across Scotland. It is a very bleak situation, and already many GPs fear the practices they work in are simply not sustainable in the long-term.’

He added that urgent action was needed.

Dr Buist called on the Scottish government to increase investment in general practice. This must include a proper funding uplift, including expenses and staff pay, he said.

And Dr Buist said there needed to be a review of the Scottish Government pledge for an additional 800 GPs in Scotland by 2027 to assess the progress in reaching the target and to look at whether this figure should now be increased.  

Finally, there must also be action to retain the GPs in post to stop them from leaving the profession prematurely.

‘It is no good recruiting 20 if you lose 25 in the process,’ said Dr Buist.