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moneys3June 15 2016

The Scottish Government has announced £2 million will be made available over the next two years to help improve GP recruitment and retention.

The money is part of the £85 million Primary Care Fund and will be used to support a range of initiatives. These include the development of a locum pool of retired GPs in Lothian, a GP recruitment programme run by the RCGP and a Scottish Rural Medicine Collaborative in seven health boards. The funding will be used “to bring together recruitment strategies and support networks for GPs working in remote and rural areas.”

The announcement was made on the same day that primary care workforce figures indicated there had been a 2% drop in the whole time equivalent number of GPs in Scotland between 2013 and 2015. Data from the Information Services Division of NHS Scotland also indicated that there were also problems recruiting doctors with one in five practices having a GP vacancy at the end of August 2015, double the level two years earlier.

Announcing the funding for recruitment and retention, Scotland’s health minister Shona Robison said the money would help to get recruitment and retention schemes off the ground, “allowing frontline staff to test new ways of working and new models of care that can be rolled out nationally if they are a success.”

However, she added: “As the Primary Care Workforce Survey published today shows, there still remain challenges in recruiting and retaining doctors to work in general practice. While Scotland continues to have the highest number of GPs per patient in the UK, we still need to act now to redesign the way care is provided in the community to ensure these services are sustainable in the future.

“That means transforming primary care and GP services - increasing the role that other health professionals play in delivering care and making it much more of a team approach, allowing GPs to focus on those patients specifically in need of their expertise.”

The BMA has criticised the level of funding for being “nowhere near sufficient to make an impact on the problems facing general practice.” Dr Alan McDevitt, Chair of the BMA’s Scottish GP Committee, said the ISD data “show how serious the recruitment and retention issues in general practice have become and it is essential that practices receive the support they so urgently need to prevent them from reaching crisis point.

“We will be watching closely to see where this money is spent at local level, as all too often, funding promised to improve general practice is redirected to other parts of primary care. This funding must be used specifically to support general practice and improve GP recruitment and retention. The problems practices are facing can only be alleviated if it is targeted directly to general practice. Practices need effective support now, before it’s too late.”

Dr McDevitt mentioned specific concerns around the new GP Development Fellow posts: “It is essential that these posts have properly negotiated terms and conditions and can be a true part of a GP career pathway. The BMA believes that any expansion of these posts at a time when practices are struggling to recruit GPs and secure locum services would be hugely counter-productive in relation to the sustainability and survival of mainstream general practice.”

Links:

Scottish Government announcement

BMA response

Today’s GP coverage of ISD Primary Care Workforce Survey 2015

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