A DRIVE to recruit 100 extra GPs in Scotland and stave-off a staffing crisis has hit the buffers with just 37 doctors taking posts.

Even though some vacancies came with a £20,000 golden handshake, it has proved extremely difficult to fill the extra training places trumpeted by the Scottish Government.

Less than half the jobs with the bursary attached were taken, leaving communities where it has been hard to recruit aspiring family doctors for a number of years still short.

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Dr Alan McDevitt, chair of the British Medical Association's Scottish General Practitioners Committee, said messages about GPs being overworked were putting people off the career.

He said: "It is about the role GPs have, the expectations that are put on them and the amount of work they do in a day."

Amid growing concern about GP shortages, with some practices closing because they were unable to fill jobs, there have been repeated attempts to attract more junior doctors to GP training this year.

At the annual recruitment round before the summer the number of training places was increased to 339, but 249 were filled.

Then in August the Scottish Government joined other parts of the UK in advertising a second intake for GP training starting in February 2017. Health Secretary Shona Robison said these 100 extra training places for Scotland would "help build the primary care workforce of the future".

But out of all the applicants UK-wide it is understood 73 initially listed training programmes in Scotland as their first choice. The selection process then followed when the suitability of candidates was assessed and applicants had the chance to amend their preferences. Ultimately 37 junior doctors were accepted into training places north of the Border including 15 who will take up hard-to-fill bursary posts. A total of 37 training vacancies with bursaries were advertised.

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Dr Miles Mack, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners in Scotland, said it was clear from the take up rate "that more must be done urgently to make general practice a more attractive career choice for young people".

He welcomed the prospect of 37 extra GPs in future, if they choose to stay, but continued: "Scotland should be working with everyone, from those undertaking their Higher exams to those completing (medical) foundation training, in an effort to make sure general practice is seen to be the fulfilling, rewarding and valued career it is with a future enshrined in adequate Scottish Government funding plans."

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has since announced a further £500m for community care services, including health centre staff, which will be invested before the next Scottish election.

Dr McDevitt, who is negotiating a new contract for Scottish GPs, said a "much brighter future" was being built for the profession with the Scottish Government.

He said the 37 new trainees were a "step in the right direction" but added: "The fact there is not 100 suggests we have got a lot more work to do."

There has been much talk about patients being seen by other health professionals in future, such as nurses, rather than routinely consulting GPs at appointments.

However, the drive to attract more junior doctors to the career is expected to continue.

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Professor Stewart Irvine, medical director for training body NHS Education for Scotland, said: "In this recruitment round, we have highlighted the benefits of living and working as a GP in Scotland, including the excellent training and lifestyle that is on offer. Our supportive and flexible approach offers trainees exceptional scope for personal development and trainee surveys rank Scotland GP training highly."

Ms Robison said: “In the most recent recruitment round,15 trainee GPs were recruited to posts that attracted the Scottish Government funded bursary of £20,000 – providing welcome evidence that financial incentives can help in efforts to attract trainees to those hard to fill areas in Scotland, and each individual will make a welcome contribution to the GP workforce."

She also said 276 new trainee GPs had taken up a training post in Scotland so far this year, a welcome 15% increase on 2015. Including junior doctors at more advanced stages of GP training there are 1082 training posts in Scotland and more than 90% are filled.

The next round of GP recruitment is expected to begin soon.