SCOTLAND’S GP crisis has deepened with one-in-three practices reporting a vacancy, the British Medical Association claims.

Last year the BMA found that almost a fifth of practices surveyed had at least one vacancy for a GP but the figure has since risen from 17 to 28 per cent.

The shock figures follow the closure of a rural GP clinic. Glencairn Medical Practice shut the doors of its Fenwick premises in East Ayrshire on Friday.

Yesterday, the BMA pointed to the increase in GP consultations caused by an ageing population living longer as a reason for the shortfall in GPs, coupled with more retiring earlier and the workload putting off trainee doctors.

Chair of the British Medical Association Scotland’s GP Committee, Dr Alan McDevitt said: “General practice in Scotland is facing severe difficulties in recruiting and retaining doctors at a time when GP workloads are growing at unprecedented rates.

“Across Scotland, over 28 per cent of practices reported having at least one vacancy and every vacant position only increases the demands that other GPs in a practice need to manage.

“The BMA is working with the Scottish Government to develop a new way of working that gives GPs the support of an expanded primary care team and will mean GPs get the time they need to be GPs, but until then the priority must be to ensure that those in communities across Scotland get the support they need to prevent them reaching crisis point.”

Earlier this year, Health Minister Shona Robison announced £2m worth of funding to improve GP recruitment and retention.

She said: “We’re working with doctors to transform primary care, backed by our commitment to increase the amount invested in primary care and GP services by £500 million by the end of this parliament.

“NHS staffing is at a record high level and we’ve already increased GP numbers under this Government. We’ve increased the number of GP training posts this year, leading to an increase of the numbers entering training by almost 20 per cent.”

Anas Sarwar, Scottish Labour’s health spokesman, said: “This is another example of the mismanagement of our NHS that has resulted in an ongoing GP crisis. I know the Government has promised additional funding but the test of success will be the recruitment and retention of GPs.”

Donald Cameron, Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary, said: “We have led calls for the Scottish Government to devote at least 11 per cent of all NHS funding to be spent within general practice. However, the SNP has so far failed to meet that specific commitment, with the result that GP clinics across Scotland are struggling to keep going.”

East Ayrshire Health and Social Care Partnership’s director, Eddie Fraser, said: “We have agreed to the temporary closure of the Fenwick branch to provide time for an engagement exercise and impact assessment.”