The Scottish Government has announced the addition of 85 extra medical school places, with courses to be ‘focused on general practice’.
It said the expansion, affecting the Universities of Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow, was part of its bid to boost GP numbers by 800 in the next 10 years.
The Government said it would also introduce a new route for experienced healthcare professionals to enter medicine, as part of the same bid.
Sixty of the additional places will become available in 2019/20, while 25 places will begin in 2020/21.
Health secretary Shona Robison said: ‘The innovative proposals from Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow universities will see 85 new places to specifically promote general practice as a long-term career for young doctors, and allow experienced healthcare professionals who may be interested in becoming doctors to enter medicine.
‘The courses will include more involvement of GPs in teaching and assessment and enhanced GP placements in deprived and rural settings.’
Ms Robison said the new places should help boost GP numbers alongside the new Scottish GP contract, which came in from April.
She said: ‘While our new GP contract will make general practice a more attractive career by cutting workloads and giving doctors more time with patients, these new medical places are a further step we are taking to train and retain more family doctors in Scotland.’
RCGP Scotland deputy chair Dr Alasdair Forbes said: ‘RCGP Scotland welcomes these additional medical student places towards general practice.
‘Previous research has shown that Scottish domiciled students are more likely to stay here once they graduate and so we hope these initiatives provide impetus to Scottish based applicants.
‘GP tutors are excellent role models and we are confident that increased exposure to and experience of general practice will help these students appreciate what a rewarding and interesting career GP is.
‘This is a welcome initiative as part of what must be a whole set of solutions to help address the fall in GP numbers. We have to recognise that these students will not translate into practicing GPs for another ten years or longer.’
But he added that ‘continuing work will need to be done to address the more immediate and problematic shortfall of 856 whole-time equivalent GPs by 2021’.
Between 2015/16 and 2020/21 the Scottish Government will have increased the number of medical places in Scottish universities from 848 to 1,038 (22%).
It comes as English medical school places have also been boosted as part of a bid to expand entry into general practice.
Three three successful bids for new medical school places
The three successful bids are:
- 30 places at the University of Aberdeen: all students will undertake an enhanced GP programme, with a set minimum of teaching time and an additional range of GP options.
- 30 places at the University of Glasgow: all students will gain enhanced exposure to primary care and students can opt for intensive experience of primary care in deprived and rural settings on the new Community Orientated Medical Experience Track (“COMET”).
- 25 places at the University of Edinburgh: this innovative course will allow experienced healthcare professionals to enter medicine and combine part time study with their existing job, with large parts of the course delivered online. It is designed to target high calibre candidates who are more likely to be retained in NHS Scotland.
Source: Scottish Department of Health