NHS spends £300,000 on locum docs

Stirling Observer - - FRONT PAGE - Robert Fairnie

A multi-mil­lion pound re­cruit­ment pro­gramme has failed to at­tract any new doc­tors to NHS Forth Val­ley since it was launched two years ago.

The GP re­cruit­ment and re­ten­tion pro­gramme, which was un­veiled by the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment in 2015, has not de­liv­ered a sin­gle GP across the re­gion.

It was hoped that the £2.5 mil­lion scheme would se­cure more fam­ily doc­tors in ru­ral and de­prived ar­eas and it was an­nounced ear­lier this year that there would be an ex­tra £5 mil­lion put into the scheme.

The Ob­server re­ported ear­lier this month that the amount the lo­cal health board is spend­ing on locum GPs in prac­tices through­out the area has risen dra­mat­i­cally in the last three years.

Fig­ures re­leased by the health board re­vealed that £329,892 was spent on locum GPs in 2016/17, com­pared to £18,141 in 2013/14.

Mid Scot­land and Fife MSP Dean Lock­hart said the fail­ure of the scheme high­lights the GP cri­sis in the Stir­ling area.


He said: “It’s no won­der Scot­land is in the grip of a gen­eral prac­tice cri­sis when the SNP gov­ern­ment fails so mis­er­ably to at­tract doc­tors to the job. This scheme was launched with the prom­ise of de­liv­er­ing GPs for ru­ral and de­prived ar­eas.

“In re­sponse to the rise in locum spend­ing, Stir­ling MSP Bruce Craw­ford at­tempted to use this scheme as ev­i­dence that the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment were act­ing to ease pres­sure on our GP surg­eries.

“In­stead it has led to a hand­ful of new ap­point­ments na­tion­wide, which will barely have had any im­pact at all, and has had ab­so­lutely no af­fect on lo­cal ser­vices in Stir­ling.

“At this rate it would take this scheme al­most a cen­tury to ad­dress the short­age of 856 GPs we’re ex­pected to have.”

Mr Craw­ford said: “The SNP Gov­ern­ment is in­creas­ing the GP Re­cruit­ment and Re­ten­tion Fund five­fold from £1 mil­lion to £5 mil­lion in 2017/18.

“Last year the num­ber of train­ing places in Scot­land in­creased by a third, and for the first time the SNP pledged a re­cruit­ment bonus of £20,000 to at­tract trainees to posts that are harder to fill. With more GPs per head of pop­u­la­tion than the rest of UK, we are start­ing to see the ben­e­fits of th­ese ef­forts.

“But while the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment does ev­ery­thing it can to make Scot­land an at­trac­tive place to live and work, the To­ries con­tinue to ig­nore dire warn­ings about the dam­age Brexit will do to our health ser­vices, not least that over 200 EU-trained GPs could leave Scot­land after EU with­drawal. That’s about one in 25 of the work­force.

“With the To­ries pre­sid­ing over what the Red Cross has pre­vi­ously de­scribed as a ‘hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis’ in the NHS in Eng­land – Dean Lock­hart’s hypocrisy on health is stag­ger­ing. I’d be in­ter­ested to know how he pro­poses to in­crease fund­ing for Gen­eral Prac­tice while giv­ing a tax cut to the wealth­i­est.”

An NHS Forth Val­ley spokesper­son added: “Although we are not aware of any GPs be­ing re­cruited here via this spe­cific na­tional ini­tia­tive we know that many lo­cal prac­tices have suc­cess­fully filled va­can­cies in the last few years and we have also ap­pointed a num­ber of new salaried GPs and GP fel­lows.

“In ad­di­tion, sev­eral prac­tices pre­vi­ously man­aged by the board, in­clud­ing Dry­men, have re­turned to GP man­age­ment.

“Health and So­cial Care Part­ner­ships are also work­ing closely with GPs to sup­port prac­tices in main­tain­ing and im­prov­ing pa­tient care.

“For ex­am­ple, the for­ma­tion of new GP clus­ters en­ables doc­tors to work more closely to­gether to ad­dress the chal­lenges faced by gen­eral prac­tice and find the best pos­si­ble so­lu­tions for lo­cal pa­tients.”

There have been se­ri­ous con­cerns about the lack of GPs at Ban­nock­burn Health Cen­tre, which was taken over by NHS Forth Val­ley in 2015, fol­low­ing a fail­ure to fill va­cant posts.

In a let­ter to a na­tional news­pa­per this week re­tired Thorn­hill doc­tor Hamish Ma­claren set out a 10-point plan to im­prove the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion.

He reck­ons prac­tices should take back out-of-hours-care, each GP should look after around 1000 pa­tients, ap­point­ments should be 15 min­utes and an in-pa­tient unit should be at­tached to GP health cen­tres to care for frail or el­derly pa­tients who need short-term nurs­ing care.

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