The problems associated with recruiting GPs for rural areas have been highlighted by NHS Highland. It says a six-week advertising campaign seeking salaried GPs in North West Sutherland received no responses. It is now “considering all options.”
NHS Highland’s advert said that it would be happy to consider any variations in working patterns, and would welcome applications from newly-qualified or experienced doctors. Salaried GPs would be based in Durness on the north west coast of Scotland, but work across a number of locations including Kinlochbervie and Scourie.
The posts were advertised with a salary of £73,379 to ££83,617, and ‘Golden Hello’ incentive and relocation packages were also available. GPs would be part of a team including nurses, pharmacists, allied health professionals, administrative staff, and Scottish Ambulance Service staff.
“We saw this as an exciting opportunity for GPs to play a key part in the development of a multi-disciplinary team to provide high-quality services to people in one of the most beautiful parts of the country,” said NHS Highland primary care manager Fiona Duff.
“However, we’ve unfortunately had no applicants, and clearly we must think very carefully about what to do now. We hope to meet local community representatives in the near future to discuss what happens next.” Ms Duff added that there have been difficulties recruiting GPs elsewhere across NHS Highland, particularly in the far north.
The positions have been advertised following the retirement of Dr Alan Belbin in June. The NHS Board has been keen to move away from single-handed GP practices, but is also having to address issues such as care-at-home provision and the replacement of a care home.
“We knew we would have to consider a new way of delivering GP services in North West Sutherland and had hoped the idea of a multi-disciplinary team, including new GPs, would prove attractive to doctors,” said Ms Duff.
“We have previously met members of Durness Community Council and were encouraged that they understood our position and seemed receptive to the idea of finding a new way of delivering services. Having failed to attract GP applicants, we clearly need to continue our discussions with the local community and will be considering all options.”
Early in 2014 the Vasco de Gama Movement (the WONCA Europe working group for new and future GPs) ran an article recruiting for the Scourie & Kinlochbervie Medical Practice. It pointed out that North West Sutherland had at that point seven GPs between five practices, covering a resident population of around 3,500, but that“it would take over three hours to drive from one end to the other.”
An article in the Northern Times covering the recent Durness recruitment points out: “Durness is two hours by road away from a hospital, and ambulance response times average 45 minutes.”
For anyone considering moving to the north of Scotland interested, there is also a recent article about daily life as a GP in Sutherland on the Jobs in Scotland website.