SNP - Tom Wills

Health / GP recruitment hub providing ‘very encouraging’ results

A NEW pilot recruitment strategy spearheaded by NHS Shetland which aims to attract GPs to work in the north of Scotland appears to be paying off.

NHS Shetland has received funding from the Scottish Government to run a recruitment ‘hub’ to encourage GPs at any point in their career to work in remote areas of Scotland for fixed periods of time.

The pilot scheme, which covers health boards in Shetland, Orkney, the Western Isles and the Highlands, looks to tackle long-held difficulties in recruitment and retention in remote and rural areas.

NHS Shetland chief executive Ralph Roberts. Photo: Shetland News

So far it looks like around 14 people will be offered the opportunity to work across the Highlands and Islands for between four and 18 weeks a year – with more expected to sign up.

NHS Shetland chief executive Ralph Roberts said the health board has employed two people on a fixed term basis, thanks to funding from the government, to make contact with GPs who express an interest in the scheme.

The recruitment strategy is aimed at encouraging GPs to “rediscover the joy of true general practice” up in the north of Scotland – including those who have recently retired but would like “one last challenge”.

The two staff members working on the project will maintain contact with the potential GPs after they first express an interest.

“One of the key areas of learning from other projects has been this personal approach of continually speaking to and really understanding what is driving an individual to look at working in a remote and rural location,” Roberts said.

GP jobs were first advertised under this scheme earlier this year and Roberts said there have been over 50 applications so far.

The idea, he said, is that each GP appointed might work between 12 and 18 weeks a year in a rural post.

The pilot project, described as exploring a new way of dealing with recruitment and retention, could be extended further into Scotland if it proves a success.

The first job advert looked for three categories of GP roles with a salary of £85,000 – substantive posts in a variety of settings across the four health boards, leave cover to one practice, or a small group of practices, for both planned and short notice absences, and locum support to practices across the four boards.

A selection weekend was recently held in Inverness for GPs who responded to the advert.

Roberts said from this it is likely that around 14 people will be offered the chance to work across the Highlands and Islands – with another 13 due to be interviewed at a second selection weekend.

Of the first 14, it is expected that around three will spend time working in Shetland – but at this stage the details are unclear.

“Shetland is supporting this for and has been funded to do this on behalf of the north of Scotland, while also looking to make sure that Shetland receive our fair share of the GPs identified,” Roberts added.

He stressed that the scheme is a “work in progress” so final numbers of GPs recruited via the hub may change.

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