Record numbers of students are being enrolled at an Aberdeen medical school to help tackle the NHS recruitment crisis.
NHS Grampian, NHS Highland and the University of Aberdeen are to welcome almost 300 undergraduate medicine students in September 2023.
In 2018, the intake target for Aberdeen was 178, but with ongoing increases, the target for 2023 is 296 new students.
NHS Scotland faces unrelenting pressure with services struggling to recruit staff and demand outstrips capacity.
The British Medical Association is estimating a shortage of around 1,000 GPs in Scotland and more than 900 vacant consultant posts.
GP Ferdous Wahid said the drive for new students was a “drop in the ocean” of what the health service urgently needs.
He told STV News: “This has been a prominent issue for many years. We’re under pressure at an extreme level.
“Existing staff at the moment are working with limited resources, covering staff absences and are overworked.
“At the end of the day, we want to provide high-quality service and safe care to patients. It’s affecting everyone within our NHS at the moment.”
He added: “We need to nurture medical students. That shortage of recruitment in medical schools will certainly create a lack of doctors.
“Medicine is an amazing, incredibly rewarding field to pursue a career. We need to encourage and motivate them to study medicine by giving them hope, creating a culture where staff are valued, the pay is comfortable and they have a work/life balance.
“We need to look more at the issues. Pumping money into the NHS is not the issue, it’s how you distribute for a long-term workforce plan.
“But the amount of doctors coming every year is not enough to fulfil demand. We desperately need more.
“It’s probably a drop in the ocean but something is better than nothing.”
Rafsan Chowdhury of Aberdeen is in his fifth year studying medicine at the university. As part of his studies, he has completed an masters in clinical pharmacology.
He hopes to pursue a career in plastic surgery and will be moving to Newcastle this year.
He recalled that there were between 160 and 170 students when he first enrolled.
“I think it’s great,” he said. “It’s massively grown and hope it continues. I’ve seen the shortages and how thinly stretched people can be.
“There are issues with funding and there’s constant negativity that you see in the headlines.
“If I was applying now, I’d say the negative take wouldn’t put me off completely, but it definitely wouldn’t sway me towards the career as a schoolkid.”
NHS Grampian medical director Nick Fluck, said “almost doubling” the number of students enrolling was “sorely needed”.
He said staffing issues were due to a variety of factors, such as staff retiring or stepping down early, services being expanded and a “change in complexity of healthcare”, such as more specialisms being developed.
He said: “This is an investment for the long term. The health service is a people business.
“Virtually every professional group needs some form of expansion. That’s absolutely needed. At the UK and Scot level, we definitely need to train more healthcare professionals and doctors.”