A programme to encourage recruitment of new GPs by offering protected time to work in an area of special interest has beaten expectations.
The GPSI scheme, devised by the local medical committee in Ayrshire, attracted four applicants between 2016 and 2017 and another eight in the past year.
It has proven so popular that GP leaders and the health board are having to reassess the model going forward.
Applicants sign up to a two-year contract as a salaried GP – often in a practice which had a long-term vacancy – and are also given time to do specialty work in an area of their choice.
Those who have taken up the offer have opted to work in a wide variety of areas including palliative care, diabetes, emergency medicine and sexual health.
Dr Chris Black, secretary of Ayrshire and Arran LMC, said the scheme had been very successful.
‘The challenge now is putting together a sustainable funding model and ensuring there is the right mix of specialties.’
He added that a campaign to encourage GPs to work and live in Ayrshire also seems to have had a positive impact on recruitment in general.
The ‘Live, Work, Grow’ campaign was launched earlier this year using social media to highlight the area, post job adverts and include testimony from GPs who had moved to work in Ayrshire.
GP staffing problems in 2017 had led the LMC and health board to take the decision to close patient lists in eight practices in North Ayrshire to try and relieve some pressure.
Earlier in the year a four-partner practice handed back its contract to the health board citing ‘impossible’ levels of funding.
Since then GPs in Scotland voted to accept a new contract which came into force in April this year.
The latest figures in Ayrshire suggest a turnaround in recruitment overall, although Dr Black cautioned it was too early to tell if this would be sustained.
‘As an LMC we are very keen to promote see Ayrshire as a place to live and work and at the last meeting, we heard that on the new joiners list there are 10 additional salaried or partner GPs in the area – that is in addition to the GPSI positions.
‘We don’t know how much that is down to the campaign, but it has probably been a factor.’
The news comes as the Scottish Government is trying to alleviate a GP workforce shortage via the introduction of the new GP contract, the addition of new GP-focused medical schools places and a recruitment campaign to attract GPs from elsewhere in the UK.
In England, the Government’s latest strategy to attract GPs includes offering a streamlined recruitment process and an £18,000 relocation package for GPs to come to the UK from Australia.
But health secretary Matt Hancock has admitted he is in talks about pushing forward the deadline for recruiting 5,000 extra GPs as this will not be met in 2020.