An initiative hoping to solve the problem of recruiting GPs is being extended to Tayside.
‘Rediscover the Joy of General Practice’ aims to help improve recruitment efforts at practices in some of Scotland’s more remote and rural areas.
It was launched in 2018 by the Scottish Rural Medicine Collaborative to offer GPs fixed-term placements at practices in Shetland, Orkney, the Western Isles and the Highlands.
Due to its success it is now moving into Tayside, as well as Grampian and Dumfries and Galloway.
Since its launch the initiative has helped with the recruitment of 60 GPs.
They choose where and how long they want to work, usually in blocks of one to four weeks, and they can work in as many or few practices as they want at one time.
The aim of ‘The Joy’ is to ease the pressure on practices that have had long-term GP vacancies or problems with covering absences or short-term leave, while providing hands-on experience.
A third of GP practices have vacancies
The Courier has previously told how patients across the region face a postcode lottery on how well-staffed their GP practice is, with some offering just one doctor for more than 3,000 people.
Some have 10 times as many patients per doctor compared to the best-staffed practices.
New figures show that nearly a third of GP surgeries in Scotland have vacancies, although the number in work has increased slightly.
Difficulties in attracting and keeping doctors
Pam Dudek, chief executive of NHS Highland and chair of the Scottish Rural Medicine Collaborative, said: “Our programme board was delighted at its recent meeting to endorse plans to spread ‘The Joy’ to other parts of the country.
“For a variety of reasons many GP practices have found it difficult to attract and keep doctors.
“Working in remote and rural areas isn’t necessarily for everybody but ‘The Joy’ is undoubtedly making it a much more attractive proposition.
“It has resulted in the creation of highly-motivated teams of experienced GPs who are helping boards and practices to plug gaps that would have been hard to fill.
Developing flexible ways of working to suit GPs at different stages of their career… has been key to the initiative’s success
“It has been effective in the four original board areas and I am sure it will play a significant part in easing pressure on GP practices in Tayside.”
Dr Charlie Siderfin, the collaborative’s clinical lead, said: “Developing flexible ways of working to suit GPs at different stages of their career, but particularly those who may be considering retirement or who want to reduce their work commitments, has been key to the initiative’s success.
“The initiative is now being extended to support urban practices with recruitment difficulties.
“We have found that many GPs are looking for a new and rewarding career experience that helps them to develop professionally as part of a network of like-minded doctors supporting practices with recruitment difficulties.”