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GPs to be given training in rural practices across north-east to address recruitment struggles

By David Porter

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GPs are to be given training in rural practices across the north-east in a bid to address recruitment struggles and to entice them to live in the area, it has been confirmed.

At the Scottish Parliament’s Health Committee on Tuesday, North East MSP Tess White voiced fears about the “proliferation” of GP practices which have returned contracts to NHS Grampian, prompting concerns over patient care and lost value for money.

MSP Tess Whyte.
MSP Tess Whyte.

Ms White referenced areas such as Braemar which will hand back its contract to the health board on December 5 after a replacement couldn’t be found for Dr Donald Cruickshank, who is retiring after 29 years as the village’s sole full-time GP.

The Scottish Conservative shadow public health minister told NHS and government officials at the committee that the number of rural GP practices in Scotland has declined by 7 per cent in the last 10 years from 188 to 175 in rural areas.

In response to her question, NHS Education Scotland said it was setting up community training hubs in rural areas across the north-east which were struggling to recruit GPs.

It’s hoped by training GPs in a rural environment rather than a hospital, it will entice them to live and work in the area permanently.

Tess White MSP asked: “We are seeing a proliferation of 2C GP practices being run by health and social care partnerships because it's so difficult to recruit GPs out of the central belt and we've got the recent example of Braemar.

“What's the Scottish Government doing to address the GP recruitment crisis in remote and rural areas of Scotland?.”

In response, Pam Nicoll, associate director of medicine at NHS Education for Scotland, said: “In Scotland, a large amount of our training, particularly for our medical colleagues, has been carried out within hospitals over a long period of time.

“We are now working hard across Scotland to develop a package of support, education, training programmes, guidance and protocols that will allow remote and rural practices to become what are termed community training hubs.

“This will both attract more GPs and doctors in training to come through rural practices without increasing the burden on existing staffing.

“We intend to do that across the rural practice multidisciplinary team so that will include pharmacists, nursing staff and advanced practitioners.

“We’ve specifically chosen practices to be involved in that, and they're geographically spread across Scotland.”

Tess White MSP later said: “The number of North East GP practices which have handed back contracts to the NHS is a depressing indication of just how serious the crisis has become.

“I welcome the new initiative of setting up community training hubs in rural areas and I hope the likes of Braemar and Oldmeldrum are selected to help entice people to work in these places.”

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