Doctors (Rural Areas)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 1st November 2018.

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Photo of Alexander Burnett Alexander Burnett Conservative

8. To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on what action it is taking to encourage doctors to relocate to rural practices. (S5O-02506)

Photo of Jeane Freeman Jeane Freeman Scottish National Party

Our strategy to recruit and retain general practitioners underpins our commitment to recruit 800 additional practising GPs by 2027, which is backed by a £7.5 million investment in this financial year. A sum of £2 million has been invested in a rural package that includes the Scottish rural medicine collaborative, golden hellos and a relocation package.

We have also committed an additional £30 million by 2021 to support all GPs with premises-related liabilities, to reduce the risk to practices.

I have launched our first graduate medicine programme, which will lead to an additional 330 medical graduates by 2028, primarily focused on remote and rural GP practices.

Photo of Alexander Burnett Alexander Burnett Conservative

I am well aware of those programmes, as are GPs in my constituency, but they are simply not working for the rural community. I ask the Government to review the programmes to ensure that they are effective in encouraging GPs to relocate to rural practices.

Photo of Jeane Freeman Jeane Freeman Scottish National Party

I would be very interested to see the evidence on which Mr Burnett bases such a wide-ranging assertion. That is certainly not my experience, nor that of the remote and rural general practice working group or the rural collaborative, which are made up of GPs with experience in remote and rural areas. None of us said that this would be easy or without challenge, but I have yet to hear any additional constructive suggestions from the member or any of the Opposition parties about what we might do to add to the successful work of the actions that I have outlined.

Photo of Gail Ross Gail Ross Scottish National Party

Will the cabinet secretary provide an update on what progress has been made by the remote and rural general practice working group on how the new GP contract will work for rural areas?

Photo of Jeane Freeman Jeane Freeman Scottish National Party

The remote and rural general practice working group has commenced a programme of engagement with GPs, multidisciplinary clinicians and healthcare service providers, not only to listen to their concerns but to hear from them—based on their experience—about what more we can do.

One of the additional propositions that will come our way is dispensing practice training. I had a very productive discussion this morning with one of our royal colleges to look at how we can add to the multidisciplinary teams, not only in our acute setting but in primary care and, in particular, in remote and rural practices.

Photo of Peter Chapman Peter Chapman Conservative

Deveron medical practice in Banff will close shortly because it has been impossible to recruit a new GP. The critical shortage of GPs is due to workforce planning mismanagement and an underfund of £658 million to the GP service over the past four years. This will be the 11th practice to close in Grampian in the past 11 years and will leave nearly 6,300 patients without a GP practice. When will the Scottish National Party Government act to solve this desperate crisis in the national health service?

Photo of Jeane Freeman Jeane Freeman Scottish National Party

As I have consistently made clear, I do not underestimate the challenges of GP numbers and GP practices in rural constituencies—as an MSP from a rural constituency, I am well aware of those challenges. However, I find it beyond impertinence that a member from those benches should argue with us about underfunding when his party is part of a United Kingdom Government that has short-changed the NHS by failing to meet its promises. It made those promises in June and a few short months later it has undercut us yet again.