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Health / GP recruitment initiative showing first results

THE FIRST GPs to be employed by NHS Shetland under a new strategy to tackle long-held difficulties in recruiting and retaining GPs in remote and rural areas are expected to start seeing patients in the North Isles this summer.

A meeting of the NHS Shetland board on Tuesday morning heard that the pilot scheme is paying off.

NHS Shetland's human resources director Lorraine Hall.NHS Shetland’s human resources director Lorraine Hall.

Nigel Russell, meanwhile, has started working as the new permanent GP at the Bixter Health Centre, while Dr Christina Hallam is the new GP for the Walls surgery. She will take up her post on 8 July.

NHS Shetland director of human resources Lorraine Hall said the health board was leading the Scottish Government recruitment initiative for Shetland, Orkney, the Western Isles and Highlands.

“This is about recruiting GPs into a model whereby they will cover gaps that we have either substantially or part-time. They will become part of that practice and part of that community to deliver quality health care,” she said.

“We are hopeful that with the number of GPs that we have been able to attract into that scheme that we will be able to cover all the vacancies that we have remaining in Whalsay, Yell and Unst.

“In Whalsay we already have GPs, so it is about understanding and confirming when there is a gap of service to the community is and to make sure that we have a GP to fill that gap.”

NHS Shetland chief officer Simon Bokor-Ingram said utilsing a pool of GPs working across the north of Scotland would be a marked improvement from employing locums.

“Locums were coming up for a one-off. This is us running a very clear selection process and we are appointing people to substantive contracts, which means the GPs will come here again and again.

“So if they commit to do 18 weeks per year in Yell, then the hope is that they will continue to come for years.”

Hall added that the health board was in the process of finalising the paperwork before appointed GPs complete initial training at the end of May and in early June.

“We are going to place them from July and August onwards,” she said.