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We need to recognise the need for holistic recruitment

We are missing a trick.

For the last few years, I have interested myself in the challenges of recruitment and retention – specifically in rural and remote healthcare. This is the ‘R&R’ of ‘R&R’ – saying that several times makes me sound more like a pirate than I ever intended.

Personal and professional needs of ‘other halves’ needs decent attention

Debate and efforts continue about how to encourage the next generation of budding GPs to dip their toe in the water of rural practice. However, over the years, I’ve realised that it seems that a really important step is often handled poorly: relocation.

In particular, I hear experiences of HR processes making this transition more difficult, not easier. I have a friend who was very keen to work in one Scottish health board – one of several which is desperate to attract GPs to rural areas. She is capable, wanted to commit and would be an asset to any team. And yet she gave up after the HR department tried her patience too many times in unreturned phone calls and unhelpful bureaucracy, with mistakes at frequent stages requiring further work on her part. The experience would make uncomfortable reading for any director who is seeing their budget diminish from locum expenses, and who has spent any time and resource in trying to attract candidates. Failure is presenting at a crucial hurdle.

The move to a single performers’ list in Scotland is very welcome. However there are plenty of other important opportunities to radically streamline the bureaucracy involved in recruiting new GPs and other healthcare staff.

Personal and professional needs of ‘other halves’ needs decent attention too. I compare the situation to those multi-national companies whose employees are required to relocate to other parts of the world; where a dedicated manager or team helps to oversee everything from introductory social occasions, to schooling and refunding the costs of relatives visiting. With short-term recruitment expenses spiralling ever higher, we need to consider how the NHS could take a more holistic approach to valuing our confreres and their circumstances from the outset – in training too. At present, the answer from MTAS and other systems seems to be, literally: ‘computer says no’.

So, let’s stop for a second to think how much we could gain if all those involved – particularly HR departments – could work more effectively to value our future colleagues – and their partners and families – to take up positions that we are spending so much energy trying to advertise. There are of course other factors affecting the recruitment crisis within general practice, but for those who are up for the challenge – and who have recognised it as a stimulating career – we should be doing everything possible to make their move a feasible and fair prospect.

Dr David Hogg is a GP on the Isle of Arran, Scotland. You can follow him on Twitter @davidrhogg