The First Minister admitted there were “real challenges” in addressing shortages of family doctors as she announced a raft of new measures to tackle the challenges of the ageing population and upcoming integrated health and social care reforms.
Concerns have been raised over shortages of care workers ahead of the changes, as recent figures showed nearly 100 people died whilst waiting for care in the Capital last year.
The funding would cover £3m for 500 extra specialist nurses, as well as £23m to create 50 new medical school places while widening access for disadvantaged students.
Ms Sturgeon also made a commitment to retain student nurse bursaries and introduce a £1m safety net for the poorest candidates.
In a speech at Queen Margaret University yesterday, Ms Sturgeon said: “We need to make sure that we are training the right numbers of professionals – in and across different specialties – with the skills they need for the health service of the future.
“That’s why this additional funding of £27m is so crucial in ensuring the NHS in Scotland remains robust, resilient and ready for the challenges of the 21st century.”
Medical leaders previously warned that Scotland faces a shortfall of 900 GPs by 2020 and around 40 per cent of midwives are approaching retirement.
Ms Sturgeon said: “We already know the next decade will present real challenges for us in recruiting GPs. Many of our current GPs are due to retire and an increasing proportion will choose to work part-time.
“What we need to do is take action now to address that and that’s why we’ve increased the number of GP training places from 300 a year to 400 and we’re trying to encourage former GPs who have perhaps left the profession to care for children or elderly relatives to come back.”
Labour accused Ms Sturgeon of simply reversing cuts made when she was Health Secretary, as 50 new places would bring the figure in line with the level in 2008.
Labour public services spokesperson Jackie Baillie said: “Nicola Sturgeon is now reversing cuts her own SNP government made to medical student numbers because primary care is facing its worst crisis in a generation.
“Under the SNP we are seeing a crisis of family doctors that the First Minister has only just seemed to have realised. We have seen a drop in funding totalling over £1 billion, fewer medical students, fewer trainee vacancies being filled, fewer out of hours sessions being staffed.”
Dr Peter Bennie, chairman of BMA Scotland, said: “We very much welcome the Scottish Government’s announcement. However, we would want to see additional investment made to ensure that on completion of their course, training places are available for these additional graduates to encourage them to stay and work in Scotland.”