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Ageing GP workforce “timebomb”, BMA Scotland warns

30 January 2007

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Commenting on NHS Workforce figures published today (Tuesday 30 January 2007), the BMA in Scotland warned of impending crisis as more than one in three doctors will retire in the next 10 years.

Dr Dean Marshall, chairman of the BMA’s Scottish General Practitioners Committee, said: “With Scotland’s rising population numbers and the changing demography of our country, general practice is facing an unprecedented increase in demand for its services. This, matched with a 10-year strategy to shift care out of hospitals and closer to people’s homes, means that now, more than ever, it is vital that the Scottish Executive makes a commitment to increase the number of GPs in Scotland.

“Today’s figures paint a bleak picture for the future of general practice. Thirty percent of the GP workforce is aged 50 or over. We are facing a workforce crisis in general practice and it is therefore utterly unacceptable that, at a time when experts predict that by 2012 Scotland will need an additional 750 GPs, there is no commitment to undertake detailed long-term workforce planning. Without a long-term strategy, it will be increasingly difficult for us to continue to provide the level of care our patients expect of us.”

In its pre-election manifesto Priorities for Health, the BMA has called for an increase in the number of GP training places as part of a package of measures that would increase the GP workforce in Scotland. “Without this”, warns Dr Marshall, “young doctors who wish to train to become GPs will be driven out of Scotland”.

Commenting on the consultant workforce figures, Mr Clive Davis, chairman of the BMA’s Scottish Consultants Committee, said: “Almost four in every ten consultants working in the NHS is aged 50 or over and it is important that NHS Boards take this into account when developing future workforce plans.

“Today’s figures highlight the continuing problem of consultant vacancies in NHS Scotland. More than 260 consultant posts in the medical specialties remain vacant. The medical workforce is changing, more women are entering the profession, younger consultants no longer wish to work excessively long hours and many demand flexible working opportunities. These are factors that must be taken into account when considering the medical workforce of the future. Last year, the BMA called for urgent action on workforce planning and yet we have seen no detailed plans on how NHS Boards expect to staff their hospitals in the future. If we are to deliver more specialist care to patients closer to their homes, this will require more, not less consultants.”