The scheme, ‘Rediscover the Joy of General Practice’, was set up in 2018 to offer GPs fixed-term placements to practices in the areas covered by four health boards: NHS Shetland, Orkney, Western Isles and Highland.
It has proved to be so successful that the initiative is now to take in NHS Tayside, as well as NHS Grampian and NHS Dumfries and Galloway.
Since its launch, the initiative has recruited two cohorts of general practitioners, 33 in the first and 27 in the second. Each group makes up a rural support team of GPs who commit themselves to placements to medical practices in remote and rural areas. The GPs can choose how much they want to work, usually in blocks of one to four weeks.
The aim is to ease pressure on practices that have difficulty with long-term GP vacancies or with covering for absences or short-term leave. In doing so, the scheme provides an opportunity for GPs to have a rewarding, hands-on experience of Scottish general practices.
The initiative was launched by the Scottish Rural Medicine Collaborative, which was set up with Scottish Government funding to develop and test innovative ways of improving GP recruitment and retention in 10 health board areas, including Tayside, which serve rural communities.
Pam Dudek, chief executive of NHS Highland and chairman of the collaborative, said: “For a variety of reasons many GP practices have found it difficult to attract and keep doctors. Working in remote and rural areas isn’t necessarily for everybody but ‘The Joy’ is undoubtedly making it a much more attractive proposition.
“It has resulted in the creation of highly-motivated teams of experienced GPs who are helping boards and practices to plug gaps that would have been hard to fill. It has been effective in the four original board areas and I am sure it will play a significant part in easing pressure on GP practices in Tayside.”
Further details are available on the Scottish Rural Medicine Collaborative’s website at https://www.srmc.scot.nhs.uk/joy-project-2/.