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Parliamentary debates and questions

S5W-03342: Tavish Scott (Shetland Islands)

Scottish Liberal Democrats

Date lodged: 29 September 2016

To ask the Scottish Government, in light of the number of medical students that are not Scottish domiciled, what it considers the challenges are in recruiting surgeons to rural and remote areas, and what action it is taking to address these.

Answered by: Shona Robison 27 October 2016

In the short to medium term, there are a range of actions already being taken to support NHS boards recruit in remote and rural areas, from abroad, and also to encourage those who trained or worked in NHS Scotland to return and work in the health service. For example, we are supporting the development of flexible networks between rural and urban hospitals. This can be seen by the reciprocal surgeon rotation between Belford Hospital and Edinburgh or NHS Highland and Caithness. NHS boards can also use either the UK or the Scotland specific Shortage Occupation List to permits recruit from abroad where evidence of shortages exists, and we are regularly reviewing these lists to ensure boards can use these where the need exists. In terms of a more sustainable medical workforce, we have increased by 50 the SG-funded medical school places from 2016, and announced Scotland’s first graduate entry medical programme with 40 additional places starting from August 2018. The aims of these initiatives are to boost future supply, but also to increase the amount of time spent learning in remote and rural settings as such experience may help influence future career choices.

Providing a quality, sustainable health service is one of the Scottish Government’s top priorities, and the National Clinical Strategy provides the strategic framework for transformational change in the NHS over the next 10-15 years, based upon providing services around the needs of local communities; supporting people to manage their own conditions; working in multidisciplinary teams and restructuring how our hospitals can best serve the people of Scotland. It follows that the restructuring of service provision must drive the future workforce requirement, and workforce planning must adapt to better match our workforce capacity to overall demand in a sustainable and affordable way taking into account of the skill sets required.

There are numerous reasons which contribute to recruitment and retention challenges in such areas of Scotland, and actions and solutions require the sustained and combined efforts of the Scottish Government, NHS boards, Medical schools and Medical Royal Colleges.