A multimillion-pound GP Recruitment and Retention Programme, run by the Scottish Government, has attracted only 18 new GPs in the two years since its launch.
Responding to a parliamentary question, health secretary Shona Robison said the ‘golden hello’ scheme, put in place to recruit more GPs to rural and deprived areas, had delivered five new GPs for Glasgow, seven for Tayside, three in Ayrshire and Arran, two in the Borders region and one in Lothian.
Similarly to the incentive scheme that was recently expanded in England, the Scottish version promises £20,000 bonuses for any trainee joining areas struggling with recruitment.
The Scottish scheme saw its funding boosted from £1m in 2016/17 to £5m for the current financial year. In addition to funding bursaries the fund has also expanded the GP Returners Scheme and increased the GP retainer reimbursement rate from £59.18 per session to £76.92 per session.
The news comes as an extra round of recruitment to GP training places in Scotland for 2017 has failed to secure applicants for almost a third of vacant positions advertised.
A third call to attract trainee GPs to 72 positions not filled in summer ended in 47 jobs being taken up.
And although fill rates in Scotland are up on last year they still lag behind the rest of the UK at 74% compared with 91% in Wales and an estimated 82% in England where final figures are not yet available
In 2016, an additional 100 Scottish training places were opened amidst concerns of a shrinking workforce.
The RCGP has calculated that an additional 850 GPs will be needed in Scotland by 2021.
A new Scottish GP contract is due to be announced this month with the aim of reducing workload pressure and making the profession attractive for young doctors.
RCGP Scotland chair Dr Miles Mack said every new GP recruited counts particularly in rural or economically deprived areas where they are so desperately required.
‘We are glad to be making this progress and glad that there is capacity to increase these numbers further in years to come.’
Dr Alan McDevitt, chair of BMA Scotland’s GP Committee, said it was essential to make becoming a GP an ‘attractive career choice’.
‘The new GP contract that we are currently negotiating with the Scottish Government can play an important part in that, by addressing the severity of the workload that GPs face and reducing some of the financial risk of partnership.’
Professor Stewart Irvine, NHS Education for Scotland Medical Director said recruitment to training in general practice is challenging.
But he added: ‘In 2017 the number of GP training posts filled in Scotland is higher than at any point since 2010.’