Extra funds for the NHS should help Shetland tackle GP shortages, that is the view of Shetland MSP Tavish Scott ahead of tomorrow’s Autumn Statement.
Mr Scott said the Chancellor George Osborne is set to earmark £2 billion for the NHS, of which Scotland will receive £200 million under the Barnett formula.
The Shetland MSP wants some of this money to be invested in GPs, with Whalsay and other practices in Shetland facing recruitment and retention difficulties.
Today figures from the BBC revealed that NHS Shetland spent almost third of its entire medical staff budget on locums last year.
According to the BBC, the NHS in Scotland spent a record £82 million on locum doctors last year – an increase of £18 million on the year before.
Mr Scott has written to the new Scottish health minister asking for assistance, and will meet with NHS Shetland this month to discuss the issues.
“The NHS faces real pressures. Hard working health staff are really pressed,” said Mr Scott.
“Ninety per cent of the health service workload is in primary care – GPs and nurses helping people every day. So this new money allocated by the UK government should be used to help with these pressures.
“Finding and encouraging GPs to work and live in rural and island areas is a challenge across Scotland.
“So the health minister and NHS management need to rethink how they are training and attracting GPs to work not just in the big city hospitals but in areas like Shetland. We, like many island areas, need full time, committed GPs, otherwise patients do not have a regular doctor and the local NHS pays a fortune in temporary staff. So it is in everyone’s interests to find a new way to tackle this issue.
“I will be asking the Scottish government to confirm that Wednesday’s new UK money will go to the NHS in Scotland. That would be sensible because local people want to see that real efforts are being made to attract and keep full time GPs.”
Last month Mr Scott called on the Scottish government to help appoint a permanent GP in Whalsay, after the Bonnie Isle had been without a permanent GP for more than a year.
Locums have been used at the practice to provide cover.
NHS service manager for primary care, Lisa Watt, said three rounds of advertising had been held for a permanent GP post.
Speaking to locums about why they did not want to take the job permanently, she said money was not an issue, rather it was geographical and beacause of moving away from family.
Ms Watt said NHS Shetland was looking at what was being done elsewhere in terms of successful recruitment to help recruit in Shetland. Advertising for a permanent GP would start in the new year.