One region in Scotland is in such a precarious position regarding GP shortages that any unexpected event such as illness could lead to a practice failing, a health board has warned.
An email sent by practices in April by NHS Dumfries & Galloway said that 11 full-time posts have been vacant for periods between three months and two years.
It is also expected that 14 GPs will retire before December 2016, meaning that the board will ‘have to recruit around 25 GPs just to maintain the status quo’.
The health board is having to look at appointing advanced nurse practitioners and recruiting from Northern Ireland, England and Wales to stave off potential closures.
Dr Angus Cameron, medical director at the board, told Pulse that the vacancies were spread across a number of practices, so there haven’t been any failures.
However, he added: ‘Clearly some are vulnerable and an unexpected illness, leave etc, could precipitate a failure.’
The board is planning to fund training of ANPs as a long-term strategy and is running extensive recruitment drives targeting doctors in Scotland, England and Northern Ireland – Stranraer is less than one hour away from Belfast.
It comes as Pulse has revealed that vacancy rates across the UK have hit their highest this year, and a number of practices are having to close as a result of problems with recruitment.
NHS Scotland this month revealed that 21% of its training places for August remained unfilled, an increase on the 11% unfilled at the same stage last year.
Pulse launched its Stop Practice Closures campaign last year to highlight the number of practices that could potentially close due to funding issues or recruitment problems.