Plans to recruit an extra 800 GPs over the next decade to secure a “sustainable service for the future” have been announced by the Scottish Government.
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Health Secretary Shona Robison also announced £7.5 million in 2018-19 to recruit and retain GPs, particularly in rural areas.
Support will be available for all 160 rural and remote practices, including “golden hello” payments of £10,000 to GPs taking up their first post in a rural practice and relocation packages of up to £5,000.
There are currently about 4,900 GPs in Scotland.
Speaking at a special British Medical Association (BMA) conference in Clydebank, West Dunbartonshire, Ms Robison said: “GPs are an integral and crucial part of our health service.
“The new GP contract, a historic joint agreement between the Scottish Government and the BMA, will ensure that GPs are able to spend more time with patients and less time on bureaucracy.
“If accepted, it will help cut doctors’ overall workload and make general practice an even more attractive career prospect.
“However, we want to go further. As multi-disciplinary teams are developed further within GP practices, our ambition is to increase the number of GPs by at least 800 over ten years to ensure a sustainable service for the future.
“GP recruitment concerns are not unique to Scotland, however our commitment to invest £7.5 million, including expanding the remote and rural incentive scheme and relocation funds, should have a real impact going forward.
“Ultimately, this will ensure people across Scotland continue to receive a high standard of care whether they’re in Newtonmore or Newton Mearns, and that those who need to see GPs are given the time they need.”
Further details on how the GPs will be recruited will be in the Scottish Government’s forthcoming primary care workforce plan.
Dr Alan McDevitt, chair of BMA Scotland’s GP Committee, said: “Working towards delivering 800 additional GPs for Scotland is a sensible and realistic target for the years ahead, and I look forward to the coming primary care workforce plan that will show how this is to be achieved.
“Together with the wider measures in the proposed contract to make general practice a more attractive career, I believe that this can have a significant impact on improving GP recruitment and retention.”
Other measures announced include funding of £100 million next year to support implementation of the new proposed GP contract, agreed jointly with the BMA, which will be voted on by GPs across the country in the coming weeks
Continued professional development and mentoring support for GPs in their first five years of their career and coaching sessions to encourage and support GPs towards the end of their careers are also among the measures planned.