40% of Fife GP surgeries close doors to new patients as pressure grows on health service

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More GP surgeries in Fife have closed their doors to new patients than anywhere else in Scotland, new figures have revealed.

Data from the British Medical Association (BMA) shows 40% of the Kingdom’s practices are no longer available to new patients. Many have also stopped accepting requests from patients to move practices as the service comes under increasing pressure.

The figures show Scotland has lost around 100 GP surgeries over the past decade – roughly one in ten – while patient numbers have swelled due to an ageing population and demographic changes. Dr Andrew Buist, who chairs the association’s Scotland GP committee, warned the picture could get worse without Scottish Government action.

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He said: “General practice is the foundation of the health service, because it’s the main access point for the rest of the system. We deal with 80-90% of all clinical contacts, so if it fails, the hospital system cannot cope.”

The figures underline the pressures facing GPs in FifeThe figures underline the pressures facing GPs in Fife
The figures underline the pressures facing GPs in Fife

Fife’s 40% closure rate to new patients is twice as high as that of Tayside at 21% and Grampian at 20% - but NHS said there were several reasons behind the data.

Dr Helen Hellewell, deputy medical director for the Fife Health and Social Care Partnership, said: "Many GP practices in Fife currently operate full lists, although continue to accept new babies and patients or family members moving into the area. A number of practices in Fife are not accepting requests from patients to move GP registration from one local practice to another.

"Our population is living longer and requiring greater input from their GP, new build housing can put greater pressures on individual practices, and the nationwide shortage of GPs is making recruitment particularly challenging. Most often the pressures on medical practices are as a result of a combination of these factors.”The health authority said it was working with Fife Health and Social Care Partnership and GP l practices to ensure all patients in Fife have access to a GP within their local area.”

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A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We have already delivered a record number of GPs working in Scotland, with more per head than any other country in the UK, and we are making good progress on our commitment to recruit at least 800 new GPs by 2027.”