That is the warning from one of the region’s MSPs, who is now asking what action the Scottish Government is planning to deal with the shortage of doctors.
Galloway and West Dumfries MSP Alex Fergusson said: “There are currently 14 GP vacancies across the region and we know that the local health board is having to spend £1 million a month on locums to fill the gaps.”
He added: “Twenty-five per cent our local GPs are over 55, and will be due to retire soon, and I understand that the proposed new contract put forward by the Scottish Government is doing nothing to persuade GPs to carry on working once they reach retirement age.”
Noting only four out of 12 GP training places in Dumfries and Galloway were filled this year, he said: “All of these facts and figures point to a looming crisis in primary care across our region.”
Mr Fergusson says it then ‘beggars belief’ that the SNP Government has cut the proportion of the NHS budget by 2.4 per cent since it came to power — down from 9.8 per cent in 2005/6 to 7.4 per cent in 2014/15 — and is urging action.
In response, Health Secretary Shona Robison says the Scottish Government is committed to supporting and enhancing primary care.
She said: “Funding for GP services has increased each year under this Government, rising from £704.61 million in 2007/08 to £852.57 million in 2014/15.”
Ms Robison says the new £45 million Primary Care Fund in the 2016/17 draft budget equates to an increase for primary care of over six per cent above the investment in the GP contract from the Scottish Government.
She says Scotland has the highest number of GPs per head of the population of the four UK countries, but said: “Scotland, like the rest of the UK, faces challenges in recruiting medics to the GP profession.”
Ms Robison says the existing ‘bureaucratic and burdensome’ GP payments system is being abolished to allow GPs to spend more time with patients, and notes Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement that numbers of GP training places will increase by a third — up from 300 to 400 a year.