General Practitioner Numbers

General Question Time – in the Scottish Parliament at on 13 June 2024.

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Photo of Kenneth Gibson Kenneth Gibson Scottish National Party

To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on what steps it is taking to increase the number of GPs. (S6O-03577)

Photo of Neil Gray Neil Gray Scottish National Party

Let me be clear: GPs are highly valued in our national health service, and I thank them for their tireless work supporting patients in our communities.

I remain fully committed to increasing the number of GPs in Scotland by 800, by 2027. The GP head count has increased by 271 since 2017 and it is consistently more than 5,000. Training new GPs is key and we have expanded GP specialty training, adding 35 places this academic year and 35 places next year. There are currently more than 1,200 trainee GPs in Scotland, which is a record, and we have invested more than £1 million into a range of recruitment and retention initiatives.

Photo of Kenneth Gibson Kenneth Gibson Scottish National Party

Will the cabinet secretary advise members how GP numbers in Scotland compare with those in other parts of the United Kingdom? Given that concerns have been raised by constituents about the time that it takes to obtain an appointment, how much have the numbers of patients presenting at GP surgeries risen since the pandemic? What work is being undertaken with surgeries to improve the efficiency of their appointment systems?

Photo of Neil Gray Neil Gray Scottish National Party

Kenneth Gibson is correct that we have a far higher number of GPs per head of population in Scotland than is present in England and Wales, but we are not complacent about that situation. That is why we are investing in the GP training programmes, as well as the recruitment and retention work that I described. We are also ensuring that there is equity of access between urban and rural areas, which is why the Scottish graduate entry medicine programme is so important, as well as the rural fellowship programme.

We know that 90 per cent of all health service interactions are in primary care, and that the complexity of the needs of patients who are arriving at GP practices has increased, post pandemic. That means that the length of time for which GPs need to see their patients has increased, putting great pressure on those services, which is why we continue to invest in multidisciplinary teams to provide the capacity and support that primary care practitioners need.