NHS BOSSES have been forced to appeal to doctors across the country after a town suffered a critical GP shortage.
NHS Tayside appealed to doctors in the Highland, Grampian and Fife regions to help cover shifts after it was revealed a local health centre in Brechin , Angus only had one GP.
In an email, health board chief executive, Lesley McLay, said she would be “really grateful” if doctors could cover shifts at Brechin Health Centre which had only one GP to cover a population of 9,000 at one point last month.
The worrying revelation could be an indicator of a potential widespread GP shortage, with a third expected to retire within the next five years.
The health board say staffing levels at the practice are improving and that “requesting support from neighbouring NHS Boards is no different to other circumstances” when they would invoke mutual aid arrangements.
Politicians have said the Scottish Government must answer serious questions about staffing levels, which have been described as a ticking “time bomb”.
The revelation comes just weeks after a GP surgery in Edinburgh published a searing open letter on its website, blaming the government and health officials for the “crisis” facing their patients.
Scottish Conservative MSP, Alex Johnstone, laid the blame firmly with the Scottish Government.
He said: “The Scottish Government has serious questions to answer for failing to address problems in primary care.
“The Scottish Conservatives have been talking for some time now about the time bomb in our NHS with as many as one third of GPs retiring in the next five years and a shortage of new entrants.”
Andrew Russell, Medical Director for NHS Tayside, claimed they have been “working tirelessly” to find cover and patient’s health concerns were being assessed on the phone before they visit a surgery.
He said: “The team in Brechin has been working tirelessly to try to secure GP cover for the health centre.
“I am pleased to say that medical staffing levels at the practice are improving as we move into August. However, we know we are dealing with a changeable position and we will continue to support the practice in providing GP cover during this challenging time.
“Patients are now accessing GP services at Brechin Health Centre in a new way by calling the practice then being assessed or ‘triaged’ on their health needs. This move away from the open access clinics which were very busy and resulted in long waits for some patients has been welcomed by patients.
“By triaging all calls into the practice, this allows the practice staff to manage urgent demand and means more issues can be dealt with on a patient’s first phone call to practice”
NHS Tayside took over control of the Brechin Health Centre in October last year and closed the GP ward at the town’s local infirmary to try and boost GP cover.
Health Secretary, Shona Robison, has recently announced a £20 million national funding boost to help with some of the issues regarding the GP workforce.
Parkgrove and East Craigs Medical Practice, in Clermiston, Edinburgh, published an open letter last month saying the couldn’t provide the level of care they would like due to a
“nationwide recruitment crisis”.
The practice serves serves 10,700 patients buts says it can’t recruit sufficient staff due to “negative publicity from the government”.