GP recruitment drive ‘only led to 18 doctors being brought in’

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A Scottish Government initiative to boost GP numbers has resulted in the recruitment of 18 doctors since it launched two years ago, according to figures highlighted by the Conservatives.

The party said the “handful” of new appointments from the GP Recruitment and Retention Programme will “barely have had any impact at all”.

It is calling on ministers to ensure that 11% of NHS funding goes straight to general practice to help surgeries address shortages.

The Royal College of General Practitioners (Scotland) predicts a shortfall of more than 850 GPs by 2021.

Tory health spokesman Miles Briggs said: “It’s no wonder Scotland is in the grip of a general practice crisis when the SNP government fails so miserably to attract doctors to the job.

“This was launched with the promise of delivering GPs for rural and deprived areas.

“Instead, it’s led to a handful of new appointments which will barely have had any impact at all.

“Indeed, at this rate it would take this scheme almost a century to address the shortage of 856 GPs we’re expected to have.

“This is just another blatant failing of the SNP workforce planning, and the consequences on the ground are a population struggling to get a GP appointment, and those family doctors who are left feeling the strain.”

The three-year GP Recruitment and Retention Programme was set up by the Government in 2015 with £2.5 million of funding.

It aimed to take forward proposals to increase the number of medical students choosing to go into GP training, as well as encouraging them to work in rural and economically deprived areas.

In March this year, the Government announced that cash for the scheme would increase to £5 million next year, helping fund GP bursaries and expand a scheme to encourage retired GPs to return to practice.

Figures show the scheme has helped recruit five GPs in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, three in NHS Ayrshire and Arran, two in NHS Borders, one in NHS Lothian and seven in NHS Tayside.

Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “In surgeries across the country the recruitment crisis is causing staff to consider their own futures, yet just a handful of recruits have been secured through this flagship scheme.

“Between flatlining recruitment schemes and a Conservative Brexit disaster that is pushing vital medical staff away from the UK, the pressure on the hard-working staff who remain is intolerable and unsustainable.

“It is time the Scottish Conservatives joined the case for an ‘NHS passport’ for EU health staff and the SNP put a mental health practitioner in every surgery, taking some of the pressure off GPs and ending the scandal of poor access to mental health treatments.”

Health Secretary Shona Robison said: “We have increased investment in GP services annually since 2007, investing £71.6 million this year in direct support of general practice, including increased funding for GP recruitment and retention.

“The Recruitment and Retention Programme has successfully delivered more GPs and builds on a wide range of initiatives at encourage GPs to enter and remain in the profession – for example, the ground-breaking Scottish Rural Medicine Collaborative involving 10 rural NHS Boards, continued support for doctors returning to GP practice and developing a new recruitment website.

“Scotland has more GPs per head of population than the rest of UK. We are also working with the British Medical Association to deliver a new GP contract which will provide a strengthened and clarified role for Scotland’s GPs.”

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