NHS Tayside shells out £500k on locum doctors

Embattled health chiefs in Tayside shelled out nearly £500,000 on locum doctors last year, amid a growing GP recruitment crisis.

The amount spent on stand-in staff throughout 2016-17 is more than the previous four years combined.

The dramatic rise in spending, revealed to the Scottish Conservatives following a freedom of information request, is thought to be as a result of three practices being handed back to the health board.

Across Scotland, GP surgeries are reverting to board control, which critics argue delivers poor value for money. The Tories have launched a Save Our Surgeries campaign, which is calling for ring-fenced funding and more GP training places.

Mid-Scotland and Fife MSP Liz Smith said: “Unfortunately, this increase in locum funding could just be the start for NHS Tayside as many GP surgeries are considering reverting to board control. If a similar increase is witnessed next year then locum GP funding could represent a funding black hole for NHS Tayside.”

An NHS Tayside spokeswoman said: “All boards across Scotland are facing a current national shortage of GPs and NHS Tayside is no exception. However, we are taking steps to recruit and retain GPs and look at different ways of delivering care in our communities.”

She said: “In the past few years, NHS Tayside assumed responsibility for three practices – Lochee and Whitfield Health Centres in Dundee and Brechin Health Centre – which saw the board provide primary care services and GP cover to nearly 15,000 additional patients.

“A major reason for this was ongoing challenges to recruit GPs. The rise in GP locum costs can be attributed to these practices.”