Fed by the press frenzy over the Pulse magazine’s freedom of information story, BBC 1 will be headlining dramatic surgery closures and GP shortages, ‘across the UK’, all day today. Blind to the Scottish context, keen to undermine the Tory Government, they inadvertently shoot wee BBC Scotland in the foot. As I write (06:50) Reporting Scotland are holding back on any attempt to generalise the scare into Scotland. Things may change.
The reasons are clear.
There is no breakdown of the data yet published telling us if surgeries are closing or in short supply in Scotland, but we know this from 2017:
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
Above figures are from the BMA’s General practice in the UK – background briefing 2017
With regard to getting appointments, we know:
‘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.’
With regard to GP numbers, BBC 1 had already made things difficult for Reporting Scotland only 3 weeks ago with this:
‘Scotland has the highest number of GPs per head of population in the UK, research commissioned by the BBC shows. Analysis by the Nuffield Trust think tank shows there are 76 GPs per 100,000 people, compared to a national UK average of 60.’
As recently as January 2019, they had claimed such figures were not available:
‘Similar data is not available for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland but GP recruitment is known to be problematic across the UK.’
We did know, of course, and we also knew that GP vacancies in Scotland were only just over one-third of the level in England
Based on a survey by the GP magazine on 6th July 2018, Pulse, the Independent reported:
‘GP vacancies (in England) rise to record levels despite recruitment pledge, survey suggests. Long patient waits and unsafe, rushed appointments are unlikely to end any time soon as vacancies have risen from 9.1 per cent to 15.3 per cent since the (UK) government pledged 5 000 more doctors.’
In sharp contrast, the GP vacancy rate in Scotland was only 5.6%, just over one-third, at the end of 2017.