East Renfrewshire’s GP surgeries are facing a “very challenging” time as summer pressures take their toll on health services.

Dr Claire Fisher, clinical director at East Renfrewshire’s Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP), said the pressures include Covid, a shortage of locum GPs and staff on annual leave.

She was speaking at a meeting of East Renfrewshire’s integration joint board, which directs the HSCP – a partnership between the council and NHS.

There are 15 general practices in East Renfrewshire, with a patient population of almost 100,000.

Some have absorbed a significant increase in patient numbers due to new housing developments in the area.

Council leader Owen O’Donnell asked Dr Fisher whether there was data on issues such as the amount of time patients are having to wait to see a doctor.

He added: “It’s hard to see what the quantitative impact is and, anecdotally, I’m still getting text messages from my practice saying ‘emergency only’ on certain days .”

In response, Dr Fisher said it was “difficult” to get the data in primary care, as “we work on different software systems and things like that.”

She also addressed the Scottish Government’s plan to boost the number of GPs across the nation by 800 in the next five years, warning it “probably won’t be enough.”

And she revealed Holyrood chiefs had asked her where the 800 GPs should “be aligned.”

“I think, in East Renfrewshire, we certainly had a significant population growth and I had certainly suggested that perhaps some of these GPs should be aligned to areas where there was significant growth,” she added.

Dr Fisher was reporting on the impact that a primary care improvement plan and a new multi-disciplinary team have had on patient care in East Renfrewshire.

She went on to say the current pressures go “wider than just GPs,” with a shortage of traditional practice nurses also causing problems.

Dr Fisher added that the strain on GPs means they “might be able to offer a certain service one day but might have to reduce that to emergencies only, given staffing pressures.”

“It’s a very challenging time for general practice,” she said. “I meet with practices regularly through the GP forum and also through their local cluster meetings and we are working hard with colleagues just to support practices as best we can.”