A SCOTTISH Government initiative aimed at boosting GP numbers has resulted in just one doctor being recruited in the Lothians since its launch two years ago, new figures reveal.
The GP Recruitment and Retention Programme was set up in 2015 with a cash pot of £2.5 million in a bid to encourage more medical students to move into general practice.
However, figures obtained by the Scottish Conservatives show the recruitment drive has only resulted in 18 new doctors across the country.
The figures were released following a written question from shadow health minister Miles Briggs. He said: “It’s no wonder Scotland is in the grip of a general practice crisis when the SNP government fails so miserably to attract doctors to the job. This was launched with the promise of delivering GPs for rural and deprived areas.
“Instead, it’s led to a handful of new appointments which will barely have had any impact at all. At this rate it would take this scheme almost a century to address the shortage of 856 GPs we’re expected to have.”
In addition to the extra doctor in NHS Lothian, the scheme helped recruit five GPs in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, three in NHS Ayrshire and Arran, two in NHS Borders and seven in NHS Tayside.
Health Secretary Shona Robison said investment in GP services had been increased annually since 2007, with £71.6m invested this year.
She said: “The Recruitment and Retention Programme has successfully delivered more GPs and builds on a wide range of initiatives at encourage GPs to enter and remain in the profession.
“Scotland has more GPs per head of population than the rest of UK. We are also working with the British Medical Association to deliver a new GP contract which will provide a strengthened and clarified role for Scotland’s GPs.”
But Lib Dem Edinburgh Western MSP and health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton said the Scottish Government’s efforts were “woefully inadequate”. He said: “This is having an impact on our existing GP workforce who have to pick up the strain and are already in many cases on their knees.
“GPs do a great job in helping to keep us well in times of need but you can’t blame people for not seeing it as a career of choice when the workload is so hideous.
“This is nothing short of a crisis in our health service.”
The ongoing GP recruitment crisis has led the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) Scotland to predict a shortage of 856 GPs by 2021.
Dr Miles Mack, RCGP Scotland chairman, said 18 new recruits was “encouraging”, particularly as many had gone into rural or economically deprived areas. He added: “We are glad to be making this progress and glad there is capacity to increase these numbers further in years to come.”
Dr Alan McDevitt, chairman of BMA Scotland’s GP committee said: “While schemes like the GP recruitment and retention programme have tried to find new ways to encourage more doctors to become GPs, ultimately it is only by making a career as a GP more attractive that the recruitment challenges in general practice will be addressed.”