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The RuraL GP

I WANTED to be a remote rural doctor from when I was just 14 years old and as someone who has now been at the heart of the rural healthcare for quarter of a century I have witnessed first-hand the decimation of the rural GP workforce. When I applied to work in the Highlands in 1996 there were about 40 applicants for the post I eventually got. Recently when a vacancy arose in my own practice there were none. And a similar pattern can be witnessed across rural Scotland.

I am a member of a number of email groups to do with primary care, some of which are world-wide in their reach. What quickly becomes clear from my involvement with these virtual groups is that in almost every other developed country the problems with recruiting and retaining rural doctors are just as bad as if not worse than it is in Scotland. That is certainly the case in England, Wales and Northern Ireland but what about things elsewhere?

Across the Irish Sea the situation in the Irish Republic is terrible too. In rural Ireland 25 – 50% of GPs are at retirement age. Speaking in 2017 Dr Padraig McGarry, chairman of the Irish Medical Organisation’s GP Committee, said “The loss of general practice in rural areas is similar to the loss of many services in rural Ireland. We have an increasingly older population of GPs facing retirement and young GPs are not prepared to come in under present circumstances of excessive hours and poor supports. There is a very real threat that GPs in the worst affected counties will not be replaced. We might have areas in rural Ireland, particularly west of the Shannon, where they will not be able to attract GPs.”

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iScot Magazine
September 2018

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