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13 March 2015, 06:00
Scotland is facing a GP recruitment "crisis'', with almost a fifth of practices reporting a vacancy, the British Medical Association (BMA) said.
Its Scottish GP committee found that 17% of 463 practices surveyed had at least one vacancy for a general practitioner.
Three-quarters said that they were unable to secure locum cover on at least one day over a one-month period while some practices reported being unable to secure cover for 15 days or more.
The organisation warned that the situation threatens patient care and called on the Scottish Government to work with it to improve the recruitment and retention of staff.
Dr Andrew Buist, deputy chair of the Scottish GP committee, said the survey, released in advance of the annual conference of Scottish local medical committees in Glasgow, supported anecdotal evidence from GPs.
He said: "Scotland is facing a GP recruitment crisis which is being further exacerbated by difficulties in securing locum cover.
"An ever-increasing workload, combined with falling resources, has led to a reduction in the number of doctors choosing to train as GPs while senior GPs are choosing to retire early or work abroad for a better work-life balance.
"This will inevitably affect the care we can provide to our patients. A high vacancy rate translates into a decline in the number of available appointments - reducing access to general practice at a time when we are trying to treat more people in their communities.
"The findings from our survey also illustrate the need for urgent action to ensure that we are able to recruit and retain GPs now.''