The Health Secretary yesterday revealed that a new recruitment drive was being launched to help NHS Highland attract GPs to Lochaber.
Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing, Alex Neil, was responding to a parliamentary question by Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch MSP Dave Thompson, asking the Scottish Government to provide an update on the progress of the models for GP practices in rural areas.
Mr Neil said: “The Scottish Government continues to promote a range of initiatives to recruit and support GPs working in remote and rural areas, including work that NHS Highland is leading to develop and test innovative ways of delivering healthcare in rural areas.
“Progress has been slower than planned because of ongoing difficulties in recruiting GPs to vacant posts. To address those difficulties, a bespoke recruitment exercise is under development and is expected to be in place by the summer.
“I assure the Parliament that the Scottish Government recognises the current challenges in remote and rural healthcare delivery and is committed to ensuring that all communities in Scotland have access to high-quality and sustainable healthcare services.”
Mr Thompson pointed out that his constituents in the west Lochaber area were concerned about the situation and that a lot of money was being spent on locum GPs to cover the vacant posts.
He asked Mr Neil for more information on the “bespoke” model.
The Cabinet secretary replied: “I am pleased that one new GP has been appointed.
“A major recruitment campaign will be launched in the next few weeks, with the support of a marketing expert, to recruit the additional GPs who are needed to staff the model. Of course, the original proposal for the model came from local GPs.”
An NHS Highland spokesman said the health board currently had nine vacancies for GPs – four in west Highland, four in north Highland and one in Argyll and Bute and said it was experiencing “significant challenges” in recruitment and retention across the range of health and care professionals.
He said: “NHS Highland is exploring all possible methods of recruitment, but the traditional advertising approach is not bearing fruit.
“Therefore, we are looking at more creative methods, including the use of social media and also the recruitment of a marketing expert in a bid to address these issues.”