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Training places expanded by 140 to help alleviate GP shortfall

Scotland has put in place an extra 140 medical training places since 2017 in an effort to address doctor shortages, the Government has said.

In response to figures showing that the number of NHS staff seeking early retirement in the past eight years, health secretary Shona Robison said last week the additional places were part of a plan to increase the number of GPs in Scotland by 800 over the next decade.

A Scottish workforce report published yesterday said the Government would also campaign to bring in GPs from the rest of the UK and overseas.

But the news comes as the BMA warned the health service in Scotland is ‘deteriorating’ due to funding cuts and staff shortages.

BMA chair Dr Peter Bennie said staff and funding were not keeping pace with demand with all parts of the NHS ‘under strain like never before’.

He said more and more pressure was being put on overworked staff.

‘Vacancy levels across all parts of the profession are simply not sustainable and have a knock-on effect on those staff in post.’

Government data also recently revealed that some Scottish GPs are working between 80 and 89 hours a week.

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Data also showed that just 92 out of 233 vacancies had been filled in the last six months up to 31 August 2017.

Ms Robison has come under increasing pressure to resign in the past week after a financial crisis at NHS Tayside in which it emerged the health board had used charity money to cover other expenses.

It comes as figures the Health and Care Experience Survey show a drop in the number of patients who rate their GP practice positively to 83% compared with 85% two years ago and 90% in 2009/10.

Ms Robison told the Scottish Parliament that the number of doctors working in the NHS had increased.

‘We know that a number of factors can lead to someone choosing early retirement. For example, we have heard previously that the United Kingdom Government’s reduction of the lifetime allowance for pension tax relief in recent years has led a number of general practitioners to take early retirement.’

She added: ‘We have outlined a number of actions through part one of our national health and social care workforce plan to increase the number of opportunities for people to train as doctors; we have also created an additional 140 medical training places since 2017.

‘We will build on that when we publish part three of the plan for primary care next week, which will reiterate our aim of increasing GP numbers by 800 over the next decade.’