No, that wasn’t their headline. The Scotsman today, continued its Labour/Lib Dem-assisted campaign against NHS Scotland, the Health Secretary and of course the SNP, with this:
‘Fewer patients reporting positive GP experiences, says survey. The Scottish Government’s 2017/18 Health and Care Experience survey found that 83 per cent of those questioned rated their care positively, a decrease of two percentage points compared to 2015/16 and a decrease of seven percentage points compared to 2009/10.’
That’s a 2% fall over 2 years and so, statistically meaningless. Whether the 7% fall over 8 years means a worsening in the actual service or is part of other of a wider and more complex socio-cultural shift in attitudes to professionals among a changing population would require serious sociological study.
I’m not saying that there is definitely no issue here, worthy of further research, but rather that it requires a more sophisticated study than this simple opinion poll. Needless to say the Scotsman took this opportunity to conflate any NHS-related issue with the survey to construct a crisis:
‘Labour and the Lib Dems have called for her [Health Secretary] to quit amid controversy over funding decisions taken by NHS Tayside, which saw more than £2 million endowment cash used for spending on routine services.’
Deep in the piece, after many readers have skimmed off somewhere else, we get a snippet of good news with:
‘More encouragingly, it also found 87 per cent of people found it easy to contact their GP practice, while more than nine out ten (93 per cent) were able to get an appointment within two days.’
As always, Liberal Democrat health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton was there to warn that patients were feeling the impact of a GP crisis. See below for some contradictory facts.
Of course, the Scotsman piece had no contextual information so here’s some:
The latest figures for the number of GPs in the UK are:
- 41 985 GPs in England – last published in Sept 2016
- 4 953 GPs in Scotland (does not include locums) – last published Jan 2017 (350 locums in 2015)
- 2 887 GPs in Wales (includes 634 locums) – last published 30 Mar 2016
- 1 274 GPs in Northern Ireland (does not include locums) – last published Oct 2015
The number of locums in Scotland in 2015 was 350.
So, the ratio of GPs to overall population is:
- England 1 GP for every 1262 people
- Scotland 1 GP for every 999 people
- Wales 1 GP for every 1060 people
- N Ireland 1 GP for every 1421 people
The number of GP practices is:
- 7 613 in England – last published in Sept 2016
- 958 in Scotland – last published Jan 2017
- 454 in Wales – last published 30 Mar 2016
- 349 in Northern Ireland – last published Oct 2015
The number of practices is a less meaningful statistic than the number of GPs per capita as these vary in size considerably but the number, nevertheless, could give an indication of access in terms of geography.
The ratio of practices to overall population is:
- England 1 practice for every 6962 people
- Scotland 1 practice for every 5532 people
- Wales 1 practice for every 6746 people
- N Ireland 1 practice for every 5189 people
The relatively large number of practices in Northern Ireland, despite having the worst ratio of GPs to population might suggest a tendency only for smaller practices there. In contrast, Scotland having the best ratio of GPs to population along with a relatively high number of practices suggest better geographical access.
Above figures are from the BMA’s General practice in the UK – background briefing 2017