MEDICAL centres that provide emergency out-of-hours GP cover in Glasgow were left without staff more than 200 times last year, figures show.

The figures, which were obtained through Freedom of Information laws, show a staggering 1375 hours and 211 shifts were not covered at eight centres across Greater Glasgow and Clyde area in 2018.

One of the most alarming figures shows services in Easterhouse - an area of poor public health and lower life expectancy - experienced a 977% increase in the number of shifts that weren’t covered.

The number of hours where no GP could be found to work shifts across the board area rose by more than 200% in the space of a single year.

Before 2017 there were no instances of a shift being left unstaffed.

At the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, the number of shifts not covered rose by 132% last year while Inverclyde was left without cover for the equivalent of 292 hours.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said patients would always be directed to their nearest available out-of-hours service after calling NHS 24.

Last year, the health board was forced to apologise after an elderly patient was transferred between two hospitals and seen by four different health services over a 10-hour period, due to out-of-hours centre closures.

The board was unable to staff services at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital and in Easterhouse area on Saturday, December 1.

The British Medical Association says 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.

“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’.

Annie Wells MSP said: “It shows that NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, our country’s largest health board, is under huge strain when it comes to having sufficient staff to offer round the clock care.”

Labour Health spokesperson Monica Lennon said: “A lack of primary care services 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.”

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.

“When a patient calls NHS 24 they are directed to their nearest GP Out of Hours Centre.

“This challenge of finding GPs willing to staff the Out of Hours Rotas is not an issue unique to NHSGGC.”