PLANS to recruit an extra 800 GPs over the next decade in a bid to beat the national shortage of family doctors have been announced by the Scottish Government.

Health Secretary Shona Robison also announced an extra £7.5 million in 2018-19 to recruit and retain GPs, particularly in rural areas.

Support will be available for all 160 rural and remote practices, including “golden hello” payments of £10,000 to GPs taking up their first post in a rural practice and relocation packages of up to £5000.

There are currently about 4900 GPs in Scotland but earlier this year it was revealed that a record number of surgeries had to be taken over by health boards in the face of a lack of GPs willing to take them on.

More than 50 surgeries had been taken over by boards, a 20 per cent increase on the situation in 2015. The measure had been introduced to help save rural and remote GP services, but many of those now being run by boards are in towns and cities.

Speaking at a special British Medical Association (BMA) conference in Clydebank yesterday, Robison said the new GP contract being put forward by the Scottish Government would let doctors spend more time with patients and would help attract more medics to general practice.

However, she said: “We want to go further. As multi-disciplinary teams are developed further within GP practices, our ambition is to increase the number of GPs by at least 800 over 10 years to ensure a sustainable service for the future.

“GP recruitment concerns are not unique to Scotland, however our commitment to invest £7.5m, including expanding the remote and rural incentive scheme and relocation funds, should have a real impact going forward.

“Ultimately, this will ensure people across Scotland continue to receive a high standard of care whether they’re in Newtonmore or Newton Mearns, and that those who need to see GPs are given the time they need.”

Further details on how the GPs will be recruited will be in the Scottish Government’s forthcoming primary care workforce plan.

Doctors welcomed the move. Alan McDevitt, chair of British Medical Association Scotland’s GP Committee, said: “Working towards delivering 800 additional GPs for Scotland is a sensible and realistic target for the years ahead, and I look forward to the coming primary care workforce plan that will show how this is to be achieved.

“Together with the wider measures in the proposed contract to make general practice a more attractive career, I believe that this can have a significant impact on improving GP recruitment and retention.”

Other measures announced include funding of £100m next year to support implementation of the new proposed GP contract, agreed jointly with the BMA, which will be voted on by GPs across the country in the coming weeks. Continued professional development and mentoring support for GPs in their first five years and coaching sessions to support GPs at the end of their careers are also planned.

In May this year in the Lothian region, 11 practices were run by the health board, with three in Forth Valley, two in Fife, two in Greater Glasgow and Clyde and three in Tayside. There were 15 in the Highlands, seven in Grampian, five in Shetland, one in Orkney and one in Dumfries and Galloway. In Ayrshire and Arran, one was under NHS control and another was due to be taken over.