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NHS officials to fly to Australia to persuade GPs to come back

Scottish NHS bosses are attending conferences in Australia in an attempt to try and persuade ex-pat GPs to come home.

The delegates are attending the 2016 Ottawa medical conference in Perth later this month and meeting GPs face-to-face to coax them back to Scotland.

As part of the campaign to attract ex-pats home, NHS Education for Scotland (NES) says it ’needs its trained GPs back’, highlighting the new contract and the ’four seasons of weather (sometimes in one day)’.

But GP leaders said that they should concentrate on keeping their own GPs in Scotland first.

Explaining the decision to fly to Australia on its website, NES said: ‘Scotland needs its trained GPs back. With the development of a new GMC contract underway, more investment in general practice, access to the NHS pension scheme and a health service that is arguably one of the best in the world, there is much to commend working as a GP in Scotland right now.

’Why not come back to enjoy our four seasons of weather (sometimes in one day), our diversity of culture and proximity to the rest of the world. Scotland is more than ever a wonderful place to live and work.’

It added that returners may only need a 2-4 week induction programme to become a GP in Scotland again.

According to NES, this means ‘no entry assessments, no additional costs when you can least afford it and no lengthy waits to get back into a substantive post’.

A spokesperson for NES said they were going to attend the conference anyway as keynote speakers and delegates so ’decided to make this an opportunity to target potential recruits as well’.

They added: ’We are running a social media campaign targeting Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the UK in the weeks ahead of us visiting Australia for the conference. We chose those particular countries because we know from trainees who completed training in Scotland and then went abroad, these were the most popular destinations and they have very similar health care systems including primary care so the transition is not difficult.’

But Dr Dean Marshall, a member of the GPC executive team and a GP in Edinburgh, told Pulse ‘I can see no reason why these people would want to come back to general practice in Scotland at the moment which has got worse year on year and is now in crisis.’

He added, ‘What we need to do is concentrate on keeping the ones we’ve got… and the only way that will happen is by properly funding general practice and making the survival of general practice the number one issue in the health service in Scotland.’

Dr Miles Mack, chair of RCGP Scotland said ‘RCGP Scotland is delighted with, and fully supportive of, NHS Education for Scotland’s efforts to encourage and support GPs to return to Scotland. There are many reasons for colleagues to seek experience elsewhere. Equally, there are a plethora of reasons for them to want to come home. Whatever their circumstances, Scotland needs and wants them and we applaud NES for continuing to reach out a helping hand.’

First minister Nicola Sturgeon said in October last year that the Scottish Government will ’invest in a programme to increase the effectiveness of our existing GP returners’ scheme’, as in the last five years more than 250 people under the age of 50 left practice.

She said investing in the returner scheme, targeting for example doctors who have taken leave to start a family, was ’the quickest and most cost-effective way of increasing GP numbers’.

Health Education England said it was ’sending its research and innovation lead to this conference to engage with and learn from international stakeholders to help shape our understanding of workforce transformation and leadership development.’

But it added this was not part of its recruitment drive.

Why are they doing this?

rural scotland online

rural scotland online

Last year, 11% of GP training places in Scotland were left unfilled, while the Scottish RCGP has been vocal on the issue of the GP recruitment crisis,.

Meanwhile a recent report from Audit Scotland said ‘fundamental changes’ were needed to solve the Scottish recruitment crisis, amid statistics showing GPs aged over 50 increased from 28% to 34% between 2004 and 2014.

Scotland has followed the lead of education leaders in England on tempting ex-pats back, after NHS England and Health Education England’s ten point plan last year emphasised its ‘returners scheme’ to make it easier for UK-trained GPs to come back to practise.

The Scottish Government and GPC are currently working together on a new GP contract to underpin the new community health hub model which will bring GPs to ‘as close as salaried’ as possible from April 2017.