I chaired NHS Fife’s annual review on 3 December and discussed a number of matters with the area clinical forum, the partnership group and patients and carers. I also discussed matters concerning the board’s performance and improvement plans with the chair and chief executive. On Monday, I met the chairs of all the health boards, including NHS Fife.
The cabinet secretary will be aware that 18 general practitioner practices across Fife currently have full patient lists, including all of those in Kirkcaldy and Lochgelly and most of those in Dunfermline. According to NHS Fife, seven surgeries are experiencing recruitment difficulties, with two considered to be at high risk.
I recognise that we have seen a small rise in the number of GPs compared with the position this time last year. However, yesterday it was revealed that, compared with a decade ago—
As Ms Baker recognises, the issue affects GP practices in other areas as well. Since 2017, there has been a 10 per cent increase in GP recruitment fill rate. Across Scotland, 352 doctors are currently in GP training posts. As the member knows, we have also introduced the £20,000 GP training bursary incentive to attract doctors to placements that have previously been hard to fill. Our new Scottish graduate entry medicine programme, ScotGEM, is largely located in Fife; it is co-located across the universities of St Andrews and Dundee. That programme is specifically focused on a GP career.
We are working hard to increase the number of GPs that we have available to us and the number of GP training posts. In addition, the new GP contract looks to introduce a multidisciplinary team to GP practices to ensure that GPs are freed from some of the bureaucratic work that they have had to endure in the past and up to today and have time to deal with the complex issues that we need them to deal with, as the local clinical leaders that they are.
The health secretary will be aware that I oppose the proposals to close the GP out-of-hours facility in St Andrews. The decision on that will be made by Fife health and social care partnership on 20 December. Does the health secretary agree that it would be sensible to give further time to consider new options for the provision of the service in north-east Fife?
Mr Rennie and I have discussed that issue on previous occasions. Indeed, he has a members’ business debate tomorrow that I am looking forward to taking part in. I absolutely understand the concerns that have been expressed by a significant number of people in north-east Fife. It would be wise to wait for the proposals that are taken to the meeting on 20 December before we jump to conclusions as to what might happen in that area.