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NHS Tayside forced to beg for Brechin cover amid GP “staffing crisis”

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NHS Tayside went cap in hand to health boards across Scotland as it experienced a “critical” GP shortage in an Angus town.

Health board chief executive Lesley McLay told colleagues in Highland, Grampian and Fife regions she would be “really grateful” if their doctors could cover shifts at Brechin Health Centre.

The Courier has seen an email revealing that the north Angus burgh only had one GP to cover a population of 9,000 as it hit rock bottom in July.

The board said numbers are “improving as we move into August” but politicians have called for the Scottish Government to defuse a “ticking time bomb” with a third of GPs set to retire within the next five years.

Scottish Conservative North East MSP Liam Kerr said it is “highly
unusual” to cast the net so wide for staff, adding that it “illustrates the depth of this staffing crisis”.

Fellow regional member Alex Johnstone said the fault lies with Scottish Government “forward planning”.

He said: “The Scottish Government has serious questions to answer for
failing to address problems in primary care.

“The Scottish Conservatives have been talking for some time now about the time bomb in our NHS with as many as one third of GPs retiring in the next five years and a shortage of new entrants.”

NHS Tayside took over Brechin Health Centre in October and closed the GP ward at the town’s infirmary to beef up doctor cover.

NHS Tayside medical director Andrew Russell said the board had already investigated moving staff within Tayside and the practice has been “working tirelessly” to secure cover.

“Requesting support from neighbouring NHS boards is no different to other circumstances where we would invoke our well-established mutual aid
arrangements,” he added.

“I am pleased to say that medical staffing levels at the practice are improving…we will continue to support the practice in providing GP cover during this challenging time.”

The Scottish Lib Dem Leader, North East Fife MSP Willie Rennie, said it showed just how serious the situation had become “that NHS Tayside are begging their neighbours to bail them out of their own crisis in Brechin”.

He added: “We need a solution for the whole of Scotland.”

Fife Labour MSP Alex Rowley said: “While it would be great to help other areas, we have not got enough GPs to cover our own practices across Fife.”

Health Secretary Shona Robison said the Scottish Government is “aware of the temporary arrangements” in Brechin, has allocated £20 million nationally “to ease some of the immediate challenges facing the workforce” over the next year, and is also working on GP contracts for 2017.

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