GP jobs re-advertised 'up to ten times and left vacant for years'

Freedom of information requests highlighted issues in Tayside, Lothian, Fife, Highland and Grampian.

GP jobs in Tayside, Lothian, Fife, Highlands and Grampian ‘left vacant for years’ – Scottish Liberal Democrats PA Media

Vacant GP posts in parts of Scotland have been advertised repeatedly or left empty for years, according to data released by the Scottish Liberal Democrats.

Freedom of information requests by the party highlighted issues in health boards in Tayside, Lothian, Fife, Highland and Grampian.

NHS Tayside said Brechin Health Centre currently has 5.43 whole-time equivalent (WTE) vacant GP posts which have been advertised on more than one occasion and warned that these have been unfilled “for many years”.

The health board noted GP recruitment is a “challenge nationally” and said it makes “every effort” to fill the posts as well as sending patients to the right service at the right time.

NHS Grampian told the party that four currently unfilled GP vacancies have had to be readvertised, one role has now been advertised on ten occasions and has been vacant since October 2017.

The health board said the affected practices “have all had to employ locums where possible to ensure patient services are maintained”.

In Fife, eight currently unfilled GP roles have had to be readvertised, including a vacancy at the Methilhaven practice which has been vacant since 2017.

NHS Lothian told the party it operates a rolling advert for GP staff with an average of five vacancies at any time.

The health board said posts have an average of one applicant but it is “relatively common” to have no suitable applicants or none at all.

One GP post with NHS Lothian was advertised six times without being filled but the health board stressed the difficulties in recruiting to primary care across the UK.

Across NHS Highland, 11 currently unfilled GP vacancies have had to be readvertised including for a vacancy at Carbost Surgery on Skye where the vacancy has been advertised on five occasions without a single applicant. It has been unfilled since November 2021.

Former Scottish Liberal democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “The people of Scotland are justifiably proud of our NHS, but years of SNP mismanagement and neglect of local health services have left millions unable to see their GP.

“That’s a huge issue, particularly in Fife, the North East and the Highlands where we are seeing so many GP roles unfilled.

“As Health Secretary Humza Yousaf did next to nothing to secure the future of general practice. His appointed successor must do a far better job.”

He said his party would increase the number of GP training places, introduce a “burnout prevention strategy” and launch a staff assembly.

He said the party would also embed more nurses, mental health professionals, dieticians and physiotherapists with GPs “so people can get a wider range of diagnosis, treatment and follow-up care within their community”.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We have already delivered a record number of GPs working in Scotland, with more per head than any other country in the UK.

“A £10,000 bursary is offered as an incentive to GPs to take up rural and other hard-to-fill vacancies and people across the country will benefit from the GP specialty trainee recruitment raising both headcount and fill rate this year, with 100% of GP training posts filled.

“In addition, more than 3,233 healthcare professionals have been recruited into multi-disciplinary teams to work alongside GPs, making it easier for patients to see the right person, in the right place, at the right time.”

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