MEDICAL practices in Glasgow have seen a dramatic increase in unstaffed out-of-hours GP services with one health centre seeing a 900% rise in the number of hours of unstaffed services last year.

The figures, revealed by a Freedom of Information request showed that last year there were 211 instances of unmanned services, totalling 1375 hours across the Greater Glasgow and Clyde area.

The number of hours where no GP could be found to work the shift rose by more than 200% in the space of a single year. Before 2017 there were no instances of a shift being left unstaffed.

One of the most alarming figures showed that Easterhouse in Glasgow’s East End - an area of poor public health and lower life expectancy. The Easterhouse Health Centre saw more than a 977% increase in the amount of time that there were unstaffed GP hours.

Despite the skyrocketing number of unstaffed out of hours services, the British Medical Association say that general practice in Scotland ‘is on the right track’.

They say that a new GP contract will make the profession ‘more attractive’, where in Scotland they have an average pre-tax income of over £87,000.

Dr Andrew Buist, chair of BMA Scotland’s Scottish General Practitioners Committee, said: “There can be no doubt that recruitment and retention issues persist for GPs across Scotland – and this clearly has a large impact on out of hours services. It also has a large impact on doctors who have to cover for vacancies and face excessive workloads.

“Of course, that can mean covering out of hours shifts can be a challenge and these figures reflect that. It is only by solving the recruitment and retention challenges in general practice as a whole that we can expect to solve issues like this and deliver more effective and efficient out of hours services.

“That is what the new GP contract is designed to do, addressing the excessive workloads that GPs face and helping to make general practice a more attractive career option.

“It will take some time to get there, but I am confident that general practice in Scotland is now on the right track to address the major challenges we face, including those in out of hours services.”

Politicians have said the figures have shown the SNP have ‘completely failed’ in their management of Scotland’s NHS and are ‘letting down communities’.

Labour Health spokeswoman Monica Lennon said: “These figures are very concerning, and show that communities with the greatest need are being let down.

“We won’t eradicate the shameful health inequalities we see in Glasgow without investing in critical out-of-hours services.

A lack of primary care services also puts additional pressure on A&E, with patients waiting hours to be seen. Like the rest of our NHS primary care is suffering from a staffing crisis, with GPs overworked and under too much stress. We need to see a clear plan from the government to tackle this staffing problem.”

A spokesperson for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said: “We have had difficulty in filling every shift across all eight GP Out of Hours emergency centres that run across the NHSGGC area due to a lack of GPs willing to work the shifts.

“GPs are not employed to provide this service as it is not part of their contract. There is a small number of salaried GPs but the remainder choose to do so in addition to other roles and less GPs are now choosing to do this additional work.

“We must stress however that within GGC on every shift there are out of hours emergency GPs working and providing care to GGC patients. We also ensure the home visiting service is operating as this is for patients who are unable to travel to a centre. When a patient calls NHS 24 they are directed to their nearest GP Out of Hours Centre”.