The Scottish Government is to introduce incentives to keep trainee doctors in the country as part of the new graduate level medical course.
The four-year course will have 40 places available with the aim of addressing the GP crisis in rural areas and is being delivered by medical schools in St Andrews and Dundee in collaboration with the University of the Highlands and Islands.
Shona Robison revealed the new course will have an “element of bonding” in a written answer to shadow health secretary Miles Briggs who asked how it will encourage Scottish-domiciled students to apply.
A similar bonding scheme currently operates in Wales and takes a four-pronged approach targeting GPs at different stages of their careers – in a bid to convince them to live and work in the country.
It includes an incentive scheme for a limited number of posts for some trainees and is dependent on GPs working in the area for an agreed length of time.
Applications for the new course which offers existing graduates a route into medicine will open in September, Health Secretary Shona Robison confirmed last month.
The course, which will begin next Autumn, will be open to existing graduates from any discipline with an interest in pursuing a medical degree.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Bonding has been used for some time in dentistry training and we are exploring how this model could be used in other areas. We will be announcing further details soon.”
The new course will commence against a backdrop of a recruitment crisis throughout the NHS in Scotland with a projected deficit of 828 GPs in Scotland by 2021. Senior doctors including Dr Miles Mack, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners and Dr Alan McDevitt of the BMA have both spoken about the need to widen access to medical schools and the importance of recruiting GPs who can identify strongly with the local communities in the areas they practice.
Miles Briggs, Scottish Conservative Public Health Spokesman, said: “I welcome this new graduate level course in as far as it goes – and if it is successful I hope that the Scottish Government will look at expanding the number of places available on this course in future – but it will obviously be some time before these graduates are retrained and working in our health service.
“I will also be asking for more detail on the scheme and how the Scottish Government will ensure that it Scottish domiciled students in particular are able to benefit from it.”
Scottish Labour health spokesman Anas Sarwar said: “We welcome any attempt to address the shortage of doctors in the NHS, and we do need to find ways to encourage recruitment and retention.
“But we can’t ignore the reality facing our doctors, and after a decade of SNP mismanagement, the NHS workforce commission established by Labour will examine this in detail. More than one in three GP practices in Scotland has a vacancy for a doctor.”