Family doctors yesterday warned overworked GPs are struggling to maintain a safe level of care for patients.
Royal College of GPs chair Professor Martin Marshall claimed tired and stressed doctors were more likely to make mistakes.
Marshall said: “GPs are finding it increasingly hard to guarantee safe care to their patients. The chances of making a mistake in a diagnosis, in a referral decision, or in prescribing are all greater when you’re under stress.
“And, if you’re working 11 and 12-hour days, seeing 50, 60 patients, the chances of making a mistake, we all know, are higher.”
He also defended the growing use of online consultations – a move that has attracted criticism from some doctors and patients.
We told last week how the Scottish Government had put a contract out to tender for a £1.5 million computer system to help GPs see more patients online.
Marshall’s warning comes as Scotland’s GP workforce is depleted by part-time working and early retirement.
The Scottish Government has repeatedly pledged to recruit 800 GPs but spending watchdog Audit Scotland said in 2019 that target was likely to be missed.
There were 5,134 GPs working in practices in Scotland last year, up 89 compared to 2019 but the number of practices in Scotland has fallen in the past decade from just over 1,000 in 2010 to 925 last year.
The average age of retirement for GPs in Scotland is 58, with more than 500 retiring before their state retirement age between 2015 and 2018, according to official figures.
Dr Patricia Moultrie, deputy chair of the BMA’s Scottish GP committee, said the biggest driver of early retirement among GPs was increased workload.
She said: “There are not enough GPs in Scotland. Workload pressures are rising. They are dealing with an ageing population, patient expectation is growing, and long waits for hospital treatment also mean patients are making more contact with GP practices for help.
“But the amount of GP time available to carry out this work is not keeping pace with increased demand.
“Morale is low in general practice as a result and it may no longer be viewed as an attractive long-term career choice.”
The Scottish Government said: “We now have a record number of GPs working in Scotland with more per head in Scotland than in the rest of UK. Investment of £155m this year in the new GP contract will see expansion of multidisciplinary teams in and around practices.
“We are pleased trainee recruitment this year has so far been the most successful of any of the last five years with 99% of GP training posts filled so far, and we are on track to deliver on our commitment of 800 additional GPs.”
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