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2 June 2017, 14:20
The level of vacancies in GP practices in Scotland is ''extremely troubling'', a doctors' organisation has warned.
The British Medical Association (BMA) Scotland said a recent survey where 26.46% of GP practices responding reported a vacancy indicated ''recruitment and retention problems'' were not improving.
More than half of Scotland's 960 GP practices responded to the BMA survey and of the 171 vacancies reported, 72.9% had been vacant for six months or longer.
BMA Scotland's GP committee chairman Dr Alan McDevitt 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 are not improving.
''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 increasing demands on GP services.''
Labour and the Conservatives said the survey showed the SNP had poorly managed the NHS.
Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary Donald Cameron said: ''Yet again, we have further evidence of the extensive crisis facing GP surgeries across the country.
''The high number of vacancies will have a very direct impact on vulnerable people who need their local doctor. It will also place an additional strain on GPs already under pressure.''
He said the SNP's approach to workforce planning in primary care has been ''shambolic''.
Scottish Labour health spokesman Anas Sarwar urged the SNP to drop plans for a second independence referendum and focus on the NHS instead.
He said: ''After ten years of SNP mismanagement, we have a workforce crisis in our NHS. There are hundreds of vacancies right across Scotland and people are not getting the care they deserve.''
Health Secretary Shona Robison said the SNP had delivered a record number of NHS staff and had the highest proportion of GPs per head in the UK.
She added: ''As the First Minister announced last year, a further £500 million will be invested in primary care by the end of this parliament.
''This spending increase in primary care, to 11% of the frontline NHS budget, will support the development of a multi-disciplinary approach, with increased staffing as well as investment in GP services and health centres.
''I recently set out that £250 million of this new investment will be in direct support of general practice, helping to transform the way services are delivered in the community - an approach that was agreed with the British Medical Association.
''In this financial year, over £71 million of that funding is to support general practice by improving recruitment and retention, reducing workload, developing new ways of delivering services and covering pay and expenses.
''This will help to make general practice a more attractive option for medical graduates, increasing the number who chose this path for their careers.''