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8 March 2016, 19:18
More than one in four GP practices in Scotland had at least one vacancy last month, according to a survey by the organisation which represents doctors.
The British Medical Association (BMA) Scotland said the findings were "extremely troubling'' after it surveyed all of Scotland's 975 GP practices, receiving responses from 500.
It found that on February 15 this year, 26% of practices had at least one vacancy. Of these practices, 41% indicated the post had been vacant for six months or longer.
A similar BMA survey published in March 2015 found 17% of practices reported having at least one vacancy.
Dr Alan McDevitt, chair of BMA Scotland's GP committee, said: ``The fact that more than one in four GP practices in Scotland had a vacant position in this snapshot survey is extremely troubling.
"It indicates that the recruitment and retention problems in general practice we have been warning of have become significantly worse over the last year.
"It is not enough to talk about record numbers of GPs in Scotland when the vacancy rate shows that there are simply not enough doctors to meet the demands being put upon general practice.
"Every unfilled vacancy puts more and more strain on remaining GPs, who must struggle to cover the gaps in their practice while also coping with rapidly-increasing demands on GP services.
"The Scottish Government needs to commit to improving recruitment and retention, as well as to increased funding to general practice and primary care.''
Scottish Labour public services spokesman Dr Richard Simpson said the Scottish Government had "created the biggest crisis in family doctors for a generation''.
"We are seeing the result of that now, with practices serving communities overstretched and under-resourced and a simply staggering vacancy rate which is getting worse despite repeated warnings from Scottish Labour,'' he said.
"The SNP must require health boards to take urgent action to support the practices at risk rather than waiting for the new contract in 2017 whilst patching up the growing number of GP practices which have collapsed and have had to be taken over by the boards.''