New university courses to boost GP numbers in Scotland

The move comes as doctors' organisations warn of a GP shortage. Picture: PA
The move comes as doctors' organisations warn of a GP shortage. Picture: PA
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New university courses are being introduced in a bid to boost GP numbers.

The Scottish Government will fund 85 additional places at Scottish universities to help reach its aim of increasing the number of GPs by 800 over the next decade.

Edinburgh University will offer 25 places to NHS healthcare professionals who want to retrain as doctors, which it said were hoped to address “doctor shortages”.

The five-year course, said to be the first of its kind in the UK, will be part time and largely online for the first three years, enabling participants to continue working in their current role as they study.

Glasgow and Aberdeen universities will offer 30 places each on new courses with a greater focus on general practice.

A total of 60 places come into force in 2019/20 with 25 more starting in 2020/21, increasing the number of medical places at Scottish universities to a record 1,038.

The move comes as doctors’ organisations warn of a GP shortage and Scottish Government statistics published in March showed a “continued decrease” in the number of GPs working full time - with this having fallen from 51% in 2013 to 37% last year.

Health Secretary Shona Robison said: “The innovative proposals from Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow universities will see 85 new places to specifically promote general practice as a long-term career for young doctors and allow experienced healthcare professionals who may be interested in becoming doctors to enter medicine.

“The courses will include more involvement of GPs in teaching and assessment and enhanced GP placements in deprived and rural settings.

“While our new GP contract will make general practice a more attractive career by cutting workloads and giving doctors more time with patients, these new medical places are a further step we are taking to train and retain more family doctors in Scotland.”

Professor Moira Whyte, head of Edinburgh University’s College of Medicine, said: “We are delighted to have been awarded places for this innovative programme in medical education - a first in the UK.

“By combining new technologies and traditional medical teaching in general practice and hospital settings, we hope to reduce barriers that have previously deterred people from moving between health professions.

“We expect the scheme will make an important contribution to addressing doctor shortages across Scotland.”