North-east GP surgeries are at risk of closure if the Scottish Government does not train more people in general practice, an MSP has warned.
Scottish Conservative MSP Tom Mason made the prediction after parliamentary answers showed just seven GPs have been recruited in NHS Grampian over the past year.
Mr Mason asked the SNP Health Secretary Jeane Freeman about the progress of recruitment efforts for doctors after the Royal College of General Practitioners Scotland recently projected a shortfall of 856 GPs by 2021.
In April, it was revealed more than 100 nurses and midwives will cross the world from Australia to fill vacancies in north-east hospitals.
Their recruitment follows an initiative where NHS Grampian bosses jetted Down Under to try to solve their decade-long crisis.
Mr Mason said: “The SNP need to be more creative when it comes to attracting and holding on to talented doctors of the future.
“This week we heard about the 100 Australian nurses who could be working in NHS Grampian hospital wards by the end of the year. That’s the kind of initiative the Scottish Government needs to show.
“I think the SNP health secretary needs to do more to focus on recruitment. If we are to believe Jeane Freeman’s claims that record numbers of GPs now work in Scotland, I want to know why so many north-east practices are closing.
“The SNP has been in sole charge of the NHS in Scotland for the last 12 years. Yet they are failing people in the north-east when it comes to health care.”
In January, Rosemount Medical Group – which had around 4,500 patients – closed its doors for the final time. Meanwhile, Deveron Medical Practice, in Banff, closed after it failed to recruit a full-time doctor and patients were eventually transferred to a new facility combined with Macduff Medical Practice.
And last year there were fears for the future of Torry Medical Practice and its 7,500 patients after the team of doctors there withdrew from their NHS contracts.
However, it is now continuing under new management.
In Ms Freeman’s answer to Mr Mason, she said the number of practices has reduced from 74 to 71 over the last year.
She also said NHS Grampian has been working on a range of local initiatives to improve GP recruitment in the north-east.
This includes working closely with the undergraduate team to promote general practice to medical students and GP mentoring for students to encourage them into the role.
Ms Freeman said: “We have also launched our GP marketing campaign and are promoting Scotland as an excellent place to live and work.”
An NHS Grampian spokeswoman said: “We work closely with independent GP practices to help support recruitment efforts.
“Over the past year we’ve attracted seven new Career Start GPs to Grampian.
“To continue to be successful, it is vital we constantly strive to innovate and identify new ways of attracting all types of staff to Grampian.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We now have a record number of GPs working in Scotland with more per 100,000 population in Scotland than the rest of the UK and we are increasing the number by a further 800 over the next decade.
“We are also committed to 11% of the NHS frontline budget going into primary care and to investing an additional £250 million in direct support of general practice by the end of the current Parliamentary period.”