Rural GP recruitment and retention should be a priority for the Rural Practice Short-life working group, which will meet for the first time this month, Scottish people have told ministers.
In public engagement events taking place throughout Scotland, ministers were told to take a “specific look at recruitment to rural GP practices”. Following the yes vote on the new Scottish GP contract, Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland was commissioned to poll public views. In its report, it finds that rural people remain unclear how rural GP premises will accommodate expanded teams, how GPs and health professionals will be recruited to rural areas, and whether there will be enough patients to support the ambitions for general practice in rural Scotland.
“There [needs] to be representation that reflects the wide range of needs from across Scotland including from rural and Deep End practices,” concludes the report, Your GP and You: Ensuring access to the right person in the right place at the right time. It suggests that the short-life working group could have a role in this.
In a recent Scottish Government portfolio question time, Labour MSP Rhoda Grant (Highlands and Islands) raised concerns about the new GP contract in rural areas.
She told health and sport secretary Shona Robison that a contract based on the number of appointments does not take account of travelling time for rural GPs, who make more home visits due to the lack of public transport in rural areas, meaning that frail elderly people cannot come to the surgery. Ms Grant said: “The contract shows no recognition whatsoever of the difference in rural practice. Similarly, the Scottish index of multiple deprivation, which is used, does not show rural deprivation, meaning that rural GPs miss out again.”
Shona Robison has also reassured Liam McArthur MSP (LD, Orkney Islands) that “a lot of effort has been put into looking at the group’s membership and… there is island representation”.