Radical new recruitment drives launched in bid to solve Scotland’s GP shortage

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A new initiative called ‘Wanderers and Adventurers’ is being launched in a bid to address Scotland’s long-standing problem of GP recruitment and retention.

'Wanderers and Adventurers' will be offered 18 weeks unpaid leave.

'Wanderers and Adventurers' will be offered 18 weeks unpaid leave.

It offers doctors the opportunity to commit to a particular practice, but is designed with maximum flexibility and 18 weeks of unpaid leave a year to allow them to pursue other interests.

The project will run alongside an existing scheme set up last year that recruited 33 GPs to work for short periods in vulnerable rural practices – now being extended across the country. Doctors are being sought to work together in small teams in practices throughout Scotland that have recruitment difficulties.

The governance and evaluation of both schemes will be the responsibility of the Scottish Rural Medicine Collaborative (SRMC), which was set up with Scottish Government funding in 2018 to develop and test innovative ways of improving GP recruitment and retention in ten rural health board areas.

Orkney GP Dr Charlie Siderfin, the SRMC’s clinical lead, said: “The initiative we launched last year, ‘Rediscover the Joy of General Practice’, has proved so successful in the board areas it operates – Western Isles, Orkney, Shetland and Highland – that we felt it should be taken to the rest of Scotland.

“We are now looking to recruit another tranche of GPs for that purpose: doctors who will be contracted to provide work cover for short periods in practices across Scotland.”

He added: “As we suspected would be the case, ‘Rediscover the Joy’ has proved particularly attractive to doctors who had either recently retired or planned to do so, but who were nevertheless keen to try new and challenging work in different parts of the country.

“However, there is another demographic of doctors we are keen to attract: perhaps younger people who wish to pursue other interests, such as travel, working for periods in low or middle-income countries or practising expedition medicine, for example, while still being committed to general practice in Scotland.

“‘Wanderers and Adventurers’ will offer doctors the kind of flexibility in their life many crave while ensuring that practices benefit from dedicated nuclear teams of highly-motivated GPs.”

Vacancies for both the expanded ‘Rediscover the Joy’ and the new ‘Wanderers and Adventurers’ initiatives are being advertised in the medical press with a closing date set for 16 February. Short-listed applicants will be invited to a selection weekend in Glasgow on 21-22 March.

Ralph Roberts, the SRMC’s chairman and chief executive of NHS Borders, said: “Our remit is to come up with innovative ways of tackling what has seemed an intractable problem and I believe these initiatives do that.”