An increase in the number of GPs working in Scotland has been welcomed by a trade union as a “positive step” towards bolstering the profession.
Statistics published on Tuesday indicated a rise of 75 GPs in 2018, taking the overall number in the country to 4,994.
The figures also showed the number of women working as GPs in Scotland has grown by more than a quarter over the last decade, making up 61% of the workforce.
The number of GPs has remained roughly constant at around 4,900 over the last decade.
The Scottish Government published part three of its National health and social care workforce plan in April 2018, which indicated an intention to increase the number of GPs in Scotland by at least 800 over the next 10 years.
A national agreement was made between the British Medical Association (BMA), the Scottish Government, integration authorities and health boards to implement a new contract outlining what funding would be necessary to help improve service provision
Andrew Buist, chairman of the Scottish GP Committee (SGPC), urged the Scottish Government to build on its commitments made in the contract.
He said: “For a long time it has been clear that action was needed and we have seen the first positive steps through the new GP contract.
“That has also meant the Scottish Government has made important commitments to deliver additional health professionals to meet patient needs in communities across Scotland, as well as promising to train and recruit a further 800 GPs.
“These commitments have been welcomed by the profession and now we must see the detail of how the Scottish Government expects to meet its promises.
“Of course recruitment takes time and in the short-term it is also essential that we also do everything possible to retain the GPs currently working in Scotland, and in particular focus on supporting GPs’ own well-being in the face of the significant workload pressures we will continue to face for some time to come.”
Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary Miles Briggs said the increase in numbers over 2018 would not be sufficient.
“The tiny increase in GPs is too little, too late and is nowhere near enough to fix the crisis GPs are facing,” he said.
“We know that the number of doctors in training is currently falling, so this small increase in GPs is likely to be wiped out thanks to the SNP’s chaotic workforce planning.
“Under the disastrous decisions of Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP we’ve seen a lost decade to try to fix the issues facing our Scottish family doctors and GP retention and recruitment.
“After 11 years of mismanagement it’s quite clear the SNP cannot be trusted with our health service.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP said: “While the headcount has been steady, we know more GPs are opting to work part-time because of the pressures of the job.
“Earlier this year the Primary Care Workforce Survey showed a ‘consistent decline’ in the number of full-time GPs and the number of practices reporting stubborn vacancies soaring. I found posts lying vacant for two years.
“Scottish Liberal Democrats demand better. It is time to end the GP crisis and the prescription is clear.
“The Scottish Government must end the years of systematic disinvestment that doctors have described, get on top of workforce planning and embed a mental health practitioner in every surgery, ending the scandal of access to this treatment and reducing some of the pressure on GPs.”
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said: “We’re committed to increasing the number of GPs in Scotland by at least 800 over the next decade.
“Today’s figures show we are making progress in delivering that commitment.
“To build on this we are investing a further £7.5 million in 2018/19 in GP recruitment and retention.
“The number of doctors in training has increased by more than 10% under this government.
“In addition, by 2020/21 we will have increased medical schools places by 22%, equivalent to an extra 190 places.
“The new GP contract, backed by £110 million this year and negotiated with the BMA and GPs, introduces multi-disciplinary teams to practices to ensure GPs are able to spend more time with patients, and less time on bureaucracy, making a career in general practice even more attractive to younger doctors.
“By the end of this Parliament we will have invested an additional £500 million per year in Primary Care, £250 million of which will be in direct support of general practice.”