Outdated image of country GPs hindering recruitment of rural doctors

The Dr Finlay’s Casebook image of Scotland’s country doctors is hindering attempts to solve the country’s GP crisis, claims a leading medical recruitment agency.

An outdated image of the country doctor

An outdated image of the country doctor

According to Head Medical, which finds jobs for doctors all over the world, an outdated perception of the role of a rural Scottish GP is putting off some potential candidates.

“The idea that the modern country doctor in Scotland is anything like Dr Finlay’s Case Book is still a bit of problem,” said Jo Hood, Head of UK Recruitment for the Edinburgh-based consultancy which recently launched a new department to help English, Scandinavian, Dutch and other European doctors to relocate to Scotland.

Dr Finlay’s Casebook, a popular BBC series based on the book Country Doctor by writer A.J.Cronin, was a favourite of millions of people around the world who watched the 178 episodes between 1962 and 1971.

“To a certain degree that view of the rural GP continues even though it is outdated. Potential candidates need to realise how they would benefit from being a rural doctor,” said Ms Hood.

The modern country doctor needs a wide range of skills

Photograph by: Gerry McCannThe modern country doctor needs a wide range of skills

“A GP who has historically worked in a big city or urban practice is going to find a completely different set of challenges in a rural area in terms of the depth of knowledge they will need and breadth of what they will be dealing with.” Scotland is currently facing a major doctor shortage, especially among GPs. Latest figures show the number of GPs working in Scotland has fallen and that one in five practices have at least one vacancy for a full-time doctor, and the number of posts still vacant after six months rose from 42 last year to 80 this year.

Dr Alan McDevitt of the British Medical Association last week told MSPs on Holyrood’s Health Committee there is a major problem in recruiting GPs through traditional channels which is now beginning to affect patient care.

“The crisis, the shortage of GPs, is now manifest and we are working very hard to change the fundamental nature of general practice to make it attractive for both doctors to stay in and to come into as a future career,” he said.

According to the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) Scotland is facing a shortfall of 915 GPs within the next five years unless urgent action is taken.

Research carried out by the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) found that between 2009 an 2013 Scotland gained just 35 new full-time-equivalent GPs, and that more than a third of Scots struggle to book a GP appointment within the 48 hours target used by the Scottish Government.

“We have doctors looking to come to the UK come from all over the globe,” said Ms Hood.

“We have had inquiries from UK trained doctors who have been working overseas in the Middle East, Australia or New Zealand who want to return yo the UK. In some cases they might have been out of the UK market for some years and we help them through the process of relocation. We can assist them to meet General Medical Council (GMC) requirements and provide guidance on the kinds of roles and jobs that may be available.

“We also have a number of doctors who want to come here from European countries, India or Scandinavia. Some Scandinavian doctors especially are interested in Scotland as it is geographically similar to their homeland and they don’t see remote communities as a problem.

“It’s not for everybody but being being involved in a smaller community with more time to spend with patients and having to deal with a wider range of ailments requiring a broader skill set can be very rewarding.”