Incentive plan to lure 800 new Scots GPs in 10 years

Doctor holding stethoscope with saltire Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Scottish government said it wanted to recruit 800 doctors over the next 10 years

Doctors are to be offered incentives such as "golden hello" payments or relocation costs as part of a plan to recruit an extra 800 GPs in a decade.

Scotland's Health Secretary Shona Robison said £7.5m would also be spent in 2018-19 to recruit and retain GPs, particularly in rural areas.

There are currently about 4,900 GPs serving a population of 5.4 million.

The British Medical Association (BMA) welcomed the plans and described the target as "sensible and realistic".

The Scottish government said support would be available for all 160 rural and remote practices across the country, including payments of £10,000 to GPs taking up their first post in a rural practice and relocation packages of up to £5,000.

The Royal College of General Practitioners has previously warned that the country faces a shortfall of 856 family doctors by 2021.

And Ms Robison was criticised by opposition parties for her handling of the issue at Holyrood earlier this week.

Speaking at a BMA conference in Clydebank on Friday, Ms Robison said: "GPs are an integral and crucial part of our health service.

"The new GP contract, a historic joint agreement between the Scottish government and the BMA, will ensure that GPs are able to spend more time with patients and less time on bureaucracy.

"If accepted, it will help cut doctors' overall workload and make general practice an even more attractive career prospect.

"However, we want to go further. As multi-disciplinary teams are developed further within GP practices, our ambition is to increase the number of GPs by at least 800 over 10 years to ensure a sustainable service for the future."

'Attractive career'

Ms Robison said doctor recruitment concerns were not unique to Scotland, but that the government's commitment to invest £7.5m would have a real impact.

"Ultimately, this will ensure people across Scotland continue to receive a high standard of care whether they're in Newtonmore or Newton Mearns, and that those who need to see GPs are given the time they need." She said.

Further details on how the GPs will be recruited will be in the Scottish government's forthcoming primary care workforce plan.

Image copyright PA

Dr Alan McDevitt, chair of BMA Scotland's GP committee, said: "Working towards delivering 800 additional GPs for Scotland is a sensible and realistic target for the years ahead, and I look forward to the coming primary care workforce plan that will show how this is to be achieved.

"Together with the wider measures in the proposed contract to make general practice a more attractive career, I believe that this can have a significant impact on improving GP recruitment and retention."

Other measures announced include funding of £100m next year to support implementation of the new proposed GP contract.

Mentoring support

That deal is due to be voted on by GPs across the country in the coming weeks.

The measures will also see doctors being offered professional development and mentoring support in their first five years of service, with coaching sessions to support GPs towards the end of their careers.

Responding to the announcement, Scottish Conservative health spokesman Miles Briggs said: "After a decade of mismanagement of our GP surgeries the SNP has finally got the message."

His Scottish Labour counterpart, Anas Sarwar, welcomed the recruitment drive, but said "it is not only our family doctors who are overworked and under-resourced".

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