‘Fresh ideas’ needed for GP shortage

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The Scottish Government has been challenged to come up with ‘fresh ideas’ to combat GP shortages in rural Aberdeenshire.

West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine Conservative MP Andrew Bowie said a very limited monetary incentive had failed to tempt trainee doctors.

Mr Bowie spoke after Audit Scotland found a “recognised risk” for health chiefs in its annual audit of the Aberdeenshire integrated joint board. He said: “I am aware of several health centres in the local area which have been taken over by NHS Grampian and are still struggling to fill their GP quota.

“The Scottish Government offered a £20,000 ‘golden hello’ for a paltry three doctors to come to NHS Grampian. Money alone won’t solve the shortage but a one-off payment to defray higher living costs might sweeten the pot for young doctors.”

Rising numbers of GP vacancies are being experienced in urban areas, as fewer junior doctors specialise in general practice and many GPs are seeking early retirement due to pension caps.

The crisis is keenly felt in rural areas where a GP may be the only local health service provider for many miles.

The Audit Scotland report said: “A key factor in the success of integration is the contribution of GPs ... in shifting patients towards community based services. The area covered by Aberdeenshire IJB has a number of key towns but is otherwise largely rural.

“NHS Grampian and Aberdeenshire Council already experience resource pressures across the area, for example, there is a shortage of GPs and care workers. This is a recognised risk for the IJB which it will continue to monitor.”

The Scottish Government announced 100 additional training posts in August, 37 with the £20,000 bonus, in an attempt to boost numbers for ‘hard to fill’ posts.

So far, the one-off bursary has been attached to two positions in the NHS Highland area and three in NHS Grampian.