The number of GP training places will be expanded by one third – from 300 to 400 – from next year in Scotland.
In her address on integration of health and social care in Edinburgh today, first minister Nicola Sturgeon also announced an expansion of the existing scheme to encourage trained GPs to return to practice following a career break.
Ms Sturgeon highlighted ‘changing working patterns’, with people ‘increasingly likely to become part-time GPs rather than full-time ones’ as a reason behind the 33% training programme expansion.
The announcement comes despite 11% of the existing 300 places remaining unfilled in Scotland this year.
But Ms Sturgeon said: ’We’re already doing more to encourage people to choose GP training – for example by increasing medical students’ exposure to primary care when they are undergraduates, and I can confirm today a further important step. We are increasing the number of training places for GPs by 33% – from 300 to 400.
’That change will take place next year, meaning that from 2019 onwards, we will begin to see additional GPs in the community. It’s a major commitment towards ensuring that we have the skilled practitioners patients need, working in integrated services, delivering our vision for the health service of the future.’
Without revealing details, she also said 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’.
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.
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.