BILLS SPIRAL AS GP SEARCH FAILS
NHS spends £300,000 on locum docs
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.
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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.