Scotland’s health secretary is open to “other ideas” on how to recruit more GPs after claims north-east surgeries are at risk of closure.
Just seven doctors have been recruited to NHS Grampian in the past year under a special scheme to train GPs, it was revealed last month.
Scottish Conservative MSP Tom Mason fears more surgeries could close in the region due to problems recruiting doctors.
He said: “The SNP Government have been told that more GPs are needed urgently in the north-east. Practices are at risk of closing without access to doctors.”
Speaking to the Evening Express, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said GP recruitment was an “area of action” for the Scottish Government and she was “open” to new ideas on how to tackle the decade-long crisis.
The SNP minister also hailed a university course to boost the number of GPs, which launched earlier this year and is open to graduates who have completed a degree other than medicine.
She added: “There is the ScotGEM course which is a postgraduate in medical training over only four years, run from St Andrews and Dundee universities.
“That is very much focused on GPs with GPs being some of the teachers on that course.
“It is going very well and we look to continue that work because it is a test that has proven itself valuable.
“That will over time recruit and produce more GPs. Another three years and we will see the outcome of that course.”
Ms Freeman also pointed to the new GP contract which sets out to reduce the workload of family doctors through the expansion of the primary care multidisciplinary team as a way to free up GPs.
She said it means patients will get the “right professional to suit their needs”.
She added: “That may be an advanced nurse practitioner, a physiotherapist, and the GP’s role is as the lead clinician.
“This transforms the GP’s role so they have more time for patients and so that they have a whole range of other skills they can call on to meet a particular patient’s needs.
“The combination of those will see us address many of these issues, but of course I’m still open to other ideas.
“Our remote and rural GP group are very specifically tasked to give me other ideas and propositions for what more we can do on GP recruitment and retention.”
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In January, Rosemount Medical Group – which has around 4,500 patients – closed.
Meanwhile, Deveron Medical Practice, in Banff, was shut after it failed to recruit a full-time doctor, with patients later 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.