NHS Shetland is urgently seeking a GP who can do maternity work to replace a GP from Lerwick Health Centre who has emigrated.
The departure of Dr Tuwor, who covered obstetrics at the Gilbert Bain Hospital’s maternity department, has led to a re-arrangement of duties with the health centre including the employment of locums.
NHS Shetland has advised that doctors Dylan Murphy and Jeanette Clayton will be providing maternity cover on alternate weeks, and therefore will not be at Lerwick Health Centre as much as normal. The health board has apologised to patients who may not be able to get appointments with these doctors.
NHS Shetland issued the following statement: “We would like to advise patients the Lerwick Health Centre is currently recruiting for a replacement GP. This means that in the short term Dr D. Murphy and Dr Clayton will be undertaking cover for the maternity department one in every two weeks to ensure continuous cover, and will not be working in the Lerwick Health Centre as much as they would normally do over the next few months.
“We appreciate that there will be many patients who wish to see these doctors at the health centre, and we apologise for any inconvenience this may cause. We hope you will understand that maintaining the maternity services cover is a vital role. Locum GP cover will be provided in the health centre in the meantime.”
According to health centre manager Lisa Sutherland, the situation is not likely to be resolved until May and highlights the problem of recruitment to remote areas.
Ms Sutherland said: “The post was advertised extensively in November but there were no applicants at all. We are now back out to adverts.”
The post of a GP able to do obstetrics is being advertised in journals read internationally and online, she said, but it could be some months before a replacement starts.
She said: “Usually for GP and consultant jobs there is a four-month window between interview and taking up the post as applicants have to give three months notice.” Realistically this means the new GP would not be in place until April or May, and meanwhile locum cover will be provided at some cost to the health board.
Ms Sutherland added: “Locums are by their nature more expensive, but equally we’ve got to provide the service. There is cover during January and February and we’ll look at it beyond that point, [if necessary] we’ll extend that.”
NHS Shetland director of medical services Simon Bokor-Ingram said the health board’s main concern was attracting a GP with obstetric knowledge, which he agreed could be a “challenge”. He said: “The reality is we want [to find] someone who wants the lifestyle of coming to Shetland and can do obstetrics.
“We’re anxious to attract applicants in the second round of advertising.” It could be a new start for someone in the New Year, he added.
There are 9,300 patients registered at the health centre and until now there have been 7.2 “whole time equivalent” GPs. This figure is now down to 6.2 whole time equivalents since Dr Tuwor left. Many GPs at the practice are part-time.