The health board has secured funding for staff housing in a move that is hoped to address a major obstacle hindering recruitment.
NHS Shetland’s finance chief Colin Marsland told today’s board meeting the Scottish government had recently agreed the funds.
Mr Marsland made the announcement during the latest discussions on challenges recruiting substantive positions and the financial burden posed by relying on locums.
The board’s spending for the current financial year is already £1.9m overbudget, with £1.3m overspent on locums. Mr Marsland said recruiting staff on substantive contracts was key to resolving the problems.
However, non-executive board member Lincoln Carrol said that while there had been lots of “ really positive” work to encourage folk to work in Shetland, one of the major obstacles was the availability of housing.
August’s board meeting heard how the lack of housing was so severe that even locums were unable to take up posts as they had nowhere to stay.
It is hoped the government funding could address the shortfall.
Board chairman Gary Robinson asked about the specific challenges recruiting GPs, which has recently led to difficulties at practices including Lerwick Health Centre.
Director of community health and social care Brian Chittick confirmed two GPs had recently been recruited on a substantive role to fill positions in Scalloway, from next month, and Brae from the new year. A position in Unst was also recently filled on a rotational bases.
However, despite some recent successes, Mr Chittick said the recruitment of GPs remained “challenging”. He said the health board was continuing to explore other recruitment methods such as through the “Rediscover the Joy” scheme.
Mr Marsland said that national recruitment policies meant GPs coming to Shetland were offered a £10,000 “golden welcome” and £5,000 for relocating expenses.
“So we have recruitment opportunities to incentivise people to get up here, but it’s obviously about selling the whole package of living in Shetland,” he added.
Mr Robinson said there were several areas where “demand was outstripping supply” in terms of professions the board was seeking to recruit.
However, he said it was good to hear some progress had been made.