Tory MSP warns action needed to prevent GP practice closures

Tom Mason
Tom Mason

More GP surgeries in the north-east could be at risk of closure unless the Scottish government trains more people to become family doctors.

North East Tory MSP Tom Mason made the prediction yesterday after it was revealed just seven doctors have been recruited to NHS Grampian in the last year under a special scheme to train GPs.

Mr Mason called on Health Secretary, Jeane Freeman, to be “more creative” in attracting and retaining doctors as he highlighted figures showing a reduction in the number of GP practices in the health board area.

In a Holyrood parliamentary answer to Mr Mason, the Health Secretary said seven people had been recruited in Grampian to the Career Start Doctors initiative, which gives young doctors the chance to work as GPs while retaining interest in their specialism.

Yesterday, Mr Mason claimed the Scottish Government wasn’t doing enough given recent Royal College of General Practitioners Scotland figures predicted an 856 family doctor shortfall by 2021.

“The SNP needs to be more creative when it comes to attracting and holding on to talented doctors of the future,” Mr Mason said.

“This week we heard about the 100 Australian nurses who could be working in NHS Grampian hospital wards by the end of the year.

“That’s the kind of initiative the Scottish government needs to show. If we are to believe Jeane Freeman’s claims that record numbers of GPs now work in Scotland, I want to know why so many north east practices are closing.”

Ms Freeman’s parliamentary answer conceded the number of north-east practices had fallen from 74 to 71 in the last year. This was down to a handful of mergers and one closing due to GP retirements.

Figures released earlier this year suggested there were 533 GPs in the NHS Grampian area, 16 doctors short of the 2008 level when there were 549.

In her answer, the Health Secretary added: “Patients will always have access to a GP when they need one. We have a record number of GPs working in Scotland.”

Ms Freeman said general practice was being promoted to medical students.  As was GP mentoring to encourage them into the career and a GP marketing campaign.

In addition, there was a Grampian recruitment campaign through the GPjobsGrampian Facebook page, blogs, the GP trainee moodle page, and through the Scottish Rural Medical Collaborative.

An NHS Grampian spokeswoman said the health board worked closely with independent GP practices to support recruitment and was striving to find new ways of attracting  staff.

She claimed that securing seven new Career Start GPs  was “positive progress” but added there was more work to do.