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Growing population means more pressure on NHS, says BMA Scotland

9 August 2010

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BMA Scotland has warned that more must be done to meet demand for health services in growing communities, following the publication of the General Register Office report last Friday (6 August), which revealed that Scotland’s population is continuing to rise.

Scotland’s population is expected to rise by 7% to 5.54 million by 2033, and the number of people aged over 60 will increase by 50%. Nineteen of the 32 council areas in Scotland are projected to increase, although growth in populations is likely to be unevenly spread.

Areas such as East Lothian are expected to grow by 33% and Perth and Kinross by 27%. These population rises, along with increasing stocks of new housing being developed in communities across the country, will create pressure on existing general practices, where list sizes continue to grow.

Doctors have warned that increasing list sizes are affecting patients’ ability to access local GP services.

Dr Dean Marshall (pictured), Chairman of the BMA’s Scottish GPs’ Committee, said: “Everyone needs to have access to their GP at some point in their life, from immunisation of babies to care for the elderly. If we are to improve access and provide the range of services that patients need, then we have to make sure we have the capacity to deliver.

“At present there is no requirement for planning departments to consider the impact of new housing developments on local health services. We believe that it would be common sense to include this as part of the planning process.”

Commenting on the life expectancy data, Dr Brian Keighley, Chairman of BMA Scotland, said: “Across Scotland as a whole, life expectancy is increasing, although the improvement is greater in more affluent areas. It is unacceptable that in the 21st Century, the average man living in the North and East of Glasgow has a life expectancy eight years shorter than his neighbour in East Dunbartonshire.

“Tackling these health inequalities means securing good health for all members of society. This requires co-ordination across different government departments to ensure policy in one area doesn’t undermine another.

“Achieving co-ordinated policy development across social, environmental and health will require sustained cross-departmental collaboration and the development of synergistic policies.

“The BMA calls on the Scottish government to introduce health impact assessments for all government policy to ensure that health is taken into account by all ministerial departments and portfolios. This is a practical measure that could help to close the health inequalities gap.”

BMA Scotland