THE number of junior doctors applying to train in Scotland has dramatically increased, amid claims the SNP government enjoys better relations with the medical profession than Tory ministers.

There was a 27 per cent rise in the number of foundation-level doctors sending applications to train in the Scottish health service for 2016-17, new figures from NHS Education Scotland show.

The surge in the number of medics wanting to work in Scotland comes after the UK Government became locked in a bitter dispute with junior doctors in England. The row led to a series of strikes, including the first-ever full walk-out by doctors.

The UK’s Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt was heavily criticised during the long-running dispute over the imposition of a new junior doctors’ contract in England, which the British Medical Association claimed would have left juniors up to 30 per cent worse off.

A new deal was finally agreed in May, and thousands of junior doctors across England are currently voting on whether the accept the new contract, with results of the ballot due later this week.

SNP MP Dr Philippa Whitford, a surgeon by profession, welcomed the rise in trainee doctor applications for Scotland, which she said was partly due to a more consensual relationship between the medical profession and the Scottish Government.

Whitford, the SNP’s health spokeswoman at Westminster, said issues such as the UK Government’s handling of the dispute with junior doctors, as well as partial privatisation and commercialisation, made Scotland’s NHS a more attractive place for medics to work.

She said: “It’s very much related to that. I’ve had letters from junior doctors asking me how they apply to work in the NHS in Scotland.

“There is a different relationship between our cabinet secretary and the health profession here. The Scottish Government has a more collaborative approach that involves more dialogue between Holyrood and the profession.

“Of course there are challenges for the NHS in Scotland, including an ageing population and other issues that any health service faces.

“But we’ve kept a single public National Health Service in Scotland, whereas in England it has gone in the direction of consumerism and competition.”

Meanwhile, the NHS Education Scotland figures showed that at core training level, for doctors who have been graduated for up to two years, there was a 13 per cent increase in posts advertised and a seven per cent rise in numbers recruited.

At higher speciality training level – doctors who have been graduated for four to five years – there was an 11 per cent increase in posts advertised and an 18 per cent rise in numbers recruited, according to the statistics.

Scotland’s Health Secretary Shona Robison welcomed the findings, which she said showed the continuing popularity of Scotland’s NHS for trainee doctors.

Robison said: “Scotland has long had a strong record of delivering high-quality medical training, as well as fantastic academic research and development opportunities.

“As a government we continue to maintain strong, positive relationships with the profession and enjoy a collaborative working relationship. Junior doctors are valued members of our healthcare team and are integral to our continuing drive to improve care in the NHS.

“These figures show increasing numbers of junior doctors are choosing Scotland’s NHS as the place to begin their careers, and it is extremely welcome to see that more training posts have been filled this year.

“However, there do still remain challenges in attracting interest to particular specialties – chiefly GP and mental health specialties.”

Professor Stewart Irvine, Director of Medicine and Deputy Chief Executive at NHS Education for Scotland, added: “Our aim is to provide excellence in health and care for the people of Scotland through high-quality education, training and development.

“We are aware that we face recruitment and retention challenges in some specialties and some areas, and are continuing work to understand the key concerns of doctors in training, to constantly improve our training offer and to attract the next generation of doctors to live, work and train in Scotland.”