Town’s GP crisis raised in Scottish Parliament

Bennochy Medical Centre. Pic by FPA.
Bennochy Medical Centre. Pic by FPA.

Concerns over a “chronic shortage” of GPs in Kirkcaldy have been raised in the Scottish Parliament.

Murdo Fraser, Mid-Scotland and Fife MSP, quizzed Nicola Sturgeon on the situation and the inequity of funding between affluent and poorer areas.

St Brycedale Surgery.

St Brycedale Surgery.

The MSP revealed via a freedom of information request that every practice in Kirkcaldy is operating with a full list with no space for new patients.

NHS Fife is still allocating patients to the eight practices, meaning patients have to wait longer for appointments.

A report in the British Medical Journal uncovered the full extent of the crisis, with surgeries in the most affluent areas receiving substantially more funding per patient than those in disadvantaged communities.

Mr Fraser (pictured) said: “Constituents in Kirkcaldy who can’t get a GP or are faced with long waits for appointments will be disappointed that more isn’t being done to help alleviate the pressures being felt in their area.

“Tackling health inequalities will be critical for increasing the life chances of everyone across Scotland and I believe it is an area that the Government must spend more time focusing on.”

Dr Graeme Brown, a partner at Bennochy Medical Practice in the town, said the situation was not new.

“This has been caused by the population of Kirkcaldy expanding but no corresponding increase in the number of GPs,” he said.

“Workloads increased and first one or two, then, eventually, all the practices decided to close their lists, meaning new patients now need to apply through NHS Fife which allocates them a practice on a rota system, and patients are having to wait longer for appointments.”

Dr Frances Elliot, NHS Fife medical director, said: “In common with many other parts of the country, some medical practices in Fife have experienced difficulty in recruiting permanent GPs.

“Medical practices are independent contractors responsible for their own recruitment.

“However, as a Board, we are committed to providing the necessary support to ensure they can continue to offer the best quality care and treatment to patients.

“We are aware of the difficulties experienced by some medical practices in recruiting general practitioners.

“It is worth noting, however, that while a number of practices in Kirkcaldy are currently operating full lists, NHS Fife can still allocate patients to these lists to ensure those who require access to a GP can continue to do so.

“This is an issue we will seek to tackle in our new clinical strategy, within which we will be working with clusters of GPs as part of the Health and Social Care Partnership to look at the demand for services and how we best meet this demand moving forward.”