Record number of Scottish GP practices taken over by health boards

Credit: This story was first seen on the Scottish Herald

A record number of GP practices in Scotland are now being run directly by health boards amid a spiralling crisis in recruitment and retention of family doctors, The Scottish Herald reports.

Figures obtained by the newspaper reveal that 52 surgeries are being operated by health boards instead of GP partners, equivalent to around one in 20 across Scotland.

The number is up by nearly 25% in two years with a previous survey in July 2015 finding that 42 GP practices were under direct health board control.

The measure was originally designed to ensure primary care could be provided in remote and rural areas or to provide a specialist care such as a GP practice for homeless people.

Most surgeries are owned and operated as partnerships between GPs, who are employed by the NHS as independent contractors paid to deliver a range of mandatory and optional patient services set out by the government in the General Medical Services (GMS) contract.

However, with fewer junior doctors choosing to specialise in general practice and pension changes capping NHS doctors retirement pots at £1 million being blamed for spurring many GPs into early retirement, an increasing number of practices have struggled to fill vacancies and become unsustainable – even in urban areas.

In the Lothian region, 11 practices are now being run by the health board, with three in Forth Valley, two in Fife, two in Greater Glasgow and Clyde and three in Tayside – including two in Dundee.

In addition, there are 15 in Highland, seven in Grampian, five in Shetland, one in Orkney and one in Dumfries and Galloway. Only Lanarkshire, Borders and the Western Isles have none.

Dr Alan McDevitt, chair of BMA Scotland’s GP Committee, said: “The root of it is there are not enough GPs to keep the jobs going. In practices where they can’t recruit, it eventually gets to a stage where the workload levels become unsafe and it’s not safe to carry on with two GPs for example where before you had four or five. GPs are already maxed out when everybody is there so it gets to a stage where you just can’t keep running the practice.”

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