Collapse of one of Scotland's largest GP practices 'extremely worrying', warns medic

·3-min read
Inverurie Medical Practice <i>(Image: Google)</i>
Inverurie Medical Practice (Image: Google)

THE collapse of one of Scotland's largest GP practices, in Inverurie, has been described as "extremely worrying" by a medical leader.

Dr Andrew Buist, chair of BMA Scotland’s GP Committee, said the announcement that Inverurie Medical Practice is to hand its contract back to NHS Grampian due to ongoing recruitment struggles reflects "the scale of the crisis" facing the profession nationally.

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Earlier today it emerged that GP partners at Inverurie Medical Practice - which has 25,000 patients - will end its contract with NHS Grampian on September 7.

Aberdeenshire Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP) said it would take over the running of the practice itself - what is known as a '2C' arrangement - unless new operators can be found to run the service.

The current operator, Inverurie Medical Group, said there are not enough GPs available to recruit.

READ MORE: 'It's falling apart' - GPs on their fears for the future of general practice

Alex Pirrie, partnership manager for Central Aberdeenshire at NHS Grampian, said: “Inverurie Medical Practice has unfortunately, like many others across the country, found itself in the position of being unable to recruit new, permanent GPs and as a result the Partners have taken the very difficult decision to hand back their contract to us.

“We will be working closely with the practice and all other partners to secure a robust, sustainable, future focused primary care service for everyone registered with the Practice."

Mrs Pirrie said services at the practice will operate normally for the next six months and there is no need for patients to change their practice, or take any other action, at this time.

She added: “I would also like to reassure patients that we will keep them informed throughout the process and whilst I fully understand that this is an unsettling time, I can promise that we are doing all we can to make the process as smooth as possible.”

An increasing number of GP practices have been forced to hand back contracts and become '2C' practices in recent years as GP partners have left or retired and fewer young GPs are willing to take on partnerships.

READ MORE: Scottish GPs at 'tipping point' as patient numbers rise dramatically

Practices run directly by health boards are staffed by salaried or locum GPs instead, which can be associated with reduced continuity of care and lower cost efficiency.

Dr Buist said: “This is extremely worrying news – and should be of huge concern – but sadly it won’t be a surprise to anyone who understands the scale of the crisis GPs are facing across Scotland.

"We don’t have enough GPs, and as the situation at Inverurie makes clear, practices are struggling desperately to recruit and retain the doctors they need.

"We know the huge mismatch between demand and capacity this is creating – which is bad for practices and the patients they are striving to do their very best for.

"The ultimate result is the position in Inverurie – and I have no doubt that it’s being replicated across the country."

It comes ahead of the five-year anniversary tomorrow of the landmark Scottish GP contract, which promised to tackle some of the drawbacks associated with GP partnerships - for example, by transferring responsibility for leasing surgery buildings to health boards.

However, this has faced delays, and a goal to free up GPs to spend more time with the most complex patients has also "singularly failed" to be achieved, said Dr Buist.

READ MORE: Watchdog warns Scotland's 800 extra GPs target 'not on track'

The latest statistics indicate that the GP workforce in Scotland has shrunk by 6.5% in real terms since 2013, while the number of registered patients over 65 - who require the most care - has increased by 20% since 2012.

Dr Buist added: "GPs are struggling simply to get to the end of every single day.

"We now have a new Cabinet Secretary and I hope Michael Matheson- whom I am seeking an urgent meeting with – will now finally review his Government’s approach and deliver the now urgent help we need to get out of what is a desperate situation.”