Scottish GPs have called on the government to support the development of new practices as data shows the country's population hits its "highest ever level".
Census data from 2011 shows Scotland's population now stands at 5,295,000 – up by 233,000 since 2001.
GPs have warned that increasing list sizes are affecting patients' ability to access local GP services.
Figures from the Information Services Division (ISD) Scotland shows the number of GPs contracted to work in Scottish general practices decreased over the past year, from 4,893 in 2011 to 4,859 in 2012, a drop of 0.7%, while the average list size of a Scottish GP practice grew to 5,586.
Dr Alan McDevitt, chair of the British Medical Association's Scottish GP Committee, said: "General practice is very much at the heart of local communities and the care we provide is valued by our patients. Everyone needs to have access to their GP at some point in their life, from immunisation of babies to care for the elderly. If we are to improve access and provide the range of services that patients need, then we have to make sure we have the capacity to deliver."
GPs have urged the Scottish Government to put in place measures to ensure that town planners have a duty to consider the impact of new housing developments on local health services as well as providing support for the creation of new practices where there is significant population growth.
"At present there is no requirement for planning departments to consider the impact of new housing developments on local health services, we believe that it would be common sense to include this as part of the planning process," said Dr McDevitt.