GP surgeries in Scotland are facing demand beyond capacity, with a senior doctor warning that some may collapse under the pressure.
Staff shortages and high demand are pushing the practice to a “tipping point”, according to a BMA survey, according to the BBC.
A staggering 81% of the practices questioned said demand exceeded capacity, while more than a third of respondents said there was at least one GP vacancy.
The survey consulted about half of all GP surgeries in Scotland.
Dr Andrew Buist, chairman of the BMA Scottish General Practitioners Council, told the broadcaster this could force some operating theatres to close.
Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland, he admitted he “regrettably” did not believe the NHS was no longer a “first-class service”.
He added: “We’re absolutely going to do our best. Our figures show 500,000 appointments a week in Scotland.
“We feel for our patients.
“We know they’re frustrated by this, and they’re understandably anxious about their health. In fact, I should say, doctors understand their own families and how they’re going to deal with this situation.”
The BMA estimates there are currently 312 full-time equivalent vacancies in GP practice in Scotland.
The senior doctor urged the government to give more relief over staffing shortages.
Mr Buist warned we could be heading towards “two tiers of health care” but stressed he wanted to avoid getting to that point.
But he said in stark warning that resources must be devoted to primary care or the whole system could “collapse”.
“We are not putting resources into primary care and general practice where it is most needed. It is the foundation of the NHS.
“If we underestimate it and underresource it, it will collapse and the rest of the healthcare system will collapse.”
“We need the government to be more open to explain what’s going on,” he added.
“This conversation cannot be left to the reception desk or the consultation room. From the top, we need the government to explain to the public that we are doing what we can.
“In these difficult circumstances, we have to prioritise the sickest people, which means sometimes people will have to wait or they may not see at all.”
Talking about job openings, Dr Buist added that the profession had lost its appeal to many.
He said: “As a GP, it’s a great job, as it should be, but it’s a very tough job, you might see 60 people a day.
“People who are nearing the end of their careers leave early because they are exhausted and there are not enough young doctors to replace them. It has lost its shine.”
But staff shortages aren’t the only problem contributing to this perfect storm.
As Scotland’s population ages, more and more people need this service.
“Excessive workload is the biggest problem. Since 2000, Scotland and the over-65 population have increased by a third. Age is the factor driving demand in the healthcare system.”
The warning comes as some health care workers, including nurses for the first time in Scotland’s history, have already announced their intention to go on strike.