Wright, Johnston & Mackenzie LLP A call on doctors

Legal expert underlines crisis in general practice


n Aberdeenshire, a local surgery is using a video promoting the local area to help recruit more doctors. Macduff Medical Practice is trying to encourage GPs to take up a new post in the town.

Te seven-minute video, which features the staff as well as a tour of the coastal commu- nity, was commissioned by the practice and shared online. “Tis is a great place to work,” said Dr Iain

Brooker. “We don’t want to recruit just any doctor. We want to reach the best we can to be the family doctors for this area - now, and in the future.” Te shortage is being experienced across

Scotland and, as well as presenting problems for practices and their patients, it is putting a financial strain on health boards. Figures released under a Freedom of Information request revealed that NHS Orkney was paying up to £1,400 per day for locum cover, NHS Lanarkshire £1,132 per day and Ayrshire and Arran, £885. Scottish Government statistics showed 24%

of practices reported vacancies in 2017, com- pared with 22% in 2015 and only 9% in 2013. “It is a trend that has accelerated in the past few years,” said Colin Millar, healthcare spe- cialist at Wright, Johnston & Mackenzie LLP. “We have reached a situation where GP

numbers in many practices have fallen be- low critical mass and in some cases this has led to the inevitable consequence that they cannot continue and have had to hand their contract back to the local health board. With not enough doctors coming into general practice from university, practices are having to resort to the ‘sticking plaster’ strategy of employing locums and/or accepting increased workloads for existing GPs.” Over a similar period, a GP’s workload

has increased by 16%. A recent survey of 208 Scottish GPs commissioned by the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) Scotland found 22% struggled to cope due to stress at least once a week. RCGP Scotland said GP shortages and rising demand had left family doctors having to work harder and for longer hours. It said Scotland needs 856 extra full-time GPs by 2021. Now, nurses and other healthcare staff

who want to retrain as doctors are to be offered university places in a bid to boost GP numbers. Te Scottish Government will

Doctors are struggling to cope with workloads

fund 85 additional places at universities to help to reach its aim of increasing the num- ber of GPs by 800 over the next decade. Edinburgh University will offer places on

a five-year course, said to be the first of its kind in Britain. It will be part-time and largely online for the first three years so that partici- pants can continue working. Glasgow and Ab- erdeen will each offer places on new courses with a greater focus on general practice. “Training more people to be GPs,” added

Millar, “and, potentially, looking at structural changes which make it less onerous to be a GP in a practice – for example, minimising the requirement to inject capital or the col- lective burden of owning and maintaining premises – it would be hoped could make an impact on the shortage.” n

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