Questioning the Cabinet Secretary for Health, Wellbeing and Sport

question to health minister

Anne McTaggart (Glasgow) (Lab):
To ask the Scottish Government how many general practices have been unable to recruit one or more partners for more than six months. (S4O-04257)

The Cabinet Secretary for Health, Wellbeing and Sport (Shona Robison):
Numbers of vacancies for GP posts are not held centrally, as that is a matter for individual GP contractors as employers. As part of a move towards better-quality, more regular and more consistent information, preparations to conduct a workforce survey later this year are under way. The aim is to obtain robust and accurate information on the numbers, gender, age profile, working patterns, contractual status and workload of GPs and other staff working in general practices. I encourage all practices in Scotland to assist us in ensuring that the information is as robust as possible by taking part in the survey.

In addition, we are seeking to profile the GP workforce in terms of how it is placed to deliver high-quality services for Scotland’s people in future, whether in hours or out of hours.

Anne McTaggart:
Given the closure of practices to new patients and the growing number of practices that are already having difficulty in recruiting and retaining GPs, and given the British Medical Association survey showing that many GPs are intending to retire and that as many as one in five are considering emigrating, how does the Government plan to recruit between 563 and 915 additional GPs by 2020?

Shona Robison:
As I said in my earlier answers on the subject, there has been an increase in the number of GPs. There has been an increase in investment over recent years, too. However, there is more to be done. There is a current issue of GPs retiring earlier than they would have done due to some changes around the pension contributions, but we absolutely have to consider the model of primary care to ensure that it is not just about GPs themselves but about the wider primary care team and the issues of flexibility, on which I responded in my answer to Nanette Milne.

The issue is also how we make general practice more attractive. At the moment, there are GP training posts that we are not able to fill, because we are not getting the interest from doctors who want to go into general practice in the way that we need. We could expand GP training numbers, but if we have difficulty in filling the posts that we have at the moment, there is a wider issue about how attractive general practice is. We must address that and we must make it a more flexible profession to enter. That will be done not just through independent contractor-based practices, but through the use of salaried GPs where appropriate. I am happy to keep Anne McTaggart up to date on some of those discussions as we take them forward.

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