APPROXIMATELY a third of GP practices in Fife have vacancies for doctors, a recent BMA survey has revealed.

The organisation this week highlighted the worrying scale of recruitment problems facing general practice in Scotland with, nationwide, more than one in four practices reporting at least one vacancy.

In Fife, 40 out of 58 surgeries replied to the survey, and from them, 35 per cent of practices reported a vacancy.

NHS Fife’s medical director, Dr Frances Elliot, said they were looking at ways they could provide practices with wider support. “We have been proactive in our efforts to help reduce vacancy numbers by taking forward a range of initiatives,” she said.

“We are participating in a pilot to test GP clinical fellow posts. These offer additional training in hospitals for young GPs who have completed their training. Although at an early stage, feedback from these clinical fellows has been positive.

“GP clusters, which bring together GPs from across communities, have also been formed to look at maintaining and improving the quality of care patients receive in our communities, this includes access to GPs.”

Commenting on the Scotland-wide results, BMA Scotland’s GP committee chairman, Dr Alan McDevitt, said: “It indicates that the recruitment and retention problems in general practice are not improving. Every unfilled vacancy puts more and more strain on remaining GPs who must struggle to cover the gaps in their practice while also coping with increasing demands on GP services.

“The BMA is currently negotiating a new contract for GPs in Scotland, and addressing recruitment and retention issues is one of our top priorities.

“But in the meantime, we need to ensure that practices are being supported to deal with the problems they are currently facing. That is why the BMA is holding a speed-dating event for GPs to try and bring together practices looking to recruit and GPs looking for posts. However, there is much more work to do to ensure that general practice is an attractive career choice for doctors.”