Scotland politics

Call over 'unfilled' GP out-of-hours sessions

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More than 100 days' worth of out-of-hours sessions for general practice were not staffed in the past three months, according to new research from Scottish Labour.

An out-of-hours session sees a GP covering a period outside the normal working hours of 09:00-18:00.

Freedom of Information requests revealed there had been 826 unfilled sessions since the beginning of July.

The Scottish government said it was investing in and improving GP services.

The FOIs were submitted by Labour's public services spokesman Dr Richard Simpson.

Out-of-hours sessions tend to be three to four hours long, with longer periods covered through the night.

'Crisis in general practice'

The figures gathered in response to the FOIs indicated that in NHS Lanarkshire, where out-of-hours services have been reduced from five to two centres, there were 209 unfilled sessions.

NHS Tayside, where the centres in Perth and Angus are partly closed, had 275 unfilled sessions.

Scottish Labour claimed there was "a crisis in Scottish general practice".

It cited a fall of more than £1bn in investment in GPs since 2005-06 and said about two million patients in Scotland were served by "understaffed and under-resourced" practices.

Dr Simpson said: "This problem is only going to get worse in the next decade. SNP ministers have been in denial for far too long.

"Action now is vital because general practice in trouble will affect every part of our NHS, from missed waiting times for mental health to increasing pressure on A&E because people can't see a local doctor.

"This is the middle of summer; if it is still this bad in winter we will begin to see real problems."

A Scottish government spokesman said: "We fundamentally value GPs and - while Scotland has more GPs per head of population than the rest of the UK - we recognise they are working very hard for their patients across the country.

"We are working with the BMA on a new GP contract that supports GPs and cuts red tape so more time can be spent with patients. We have also commissioned a review of out-of-hours care, which will provide clear recommendations to support those who need urgent care.

"This is in addition to the action we've already taken to increase the number of GPs in Scotland and investing £60m in the Primary Care Fund."

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