Record salary of £150,000 offered to solve GP shortage in the Outer Hebrides

Wanted: GPs for an adventurous life, ‘glittering beaches’ and an idyllic landscape. And if that’s not enough, how about earning almost £150,000 a year for working a 40-hour week?

That record salary is being offered by NHS executives in the Outer Hebrides in a new bid to solve a recruitment crisis at one of Britain’s most remote medical practices, serving the scattered communities of the Uists and Benbecula.

Doctors’ practices in rural Scotland are struggling to recruit GPs. The Outer Hebrides are among the worst affected areas, and there are fears the shortage will worsen the already significant health inequalities and depopulation on the islands.

After the last self-employed doctor in Benbecula was given back her contract, NHS Western Isles has decided to offer a remarkable pay package to try to entice at least five GPs to move to the Uists and Benbecula to work as contracted employees.

The challenge in the Outer Hebrides is partly due to rising house prices, fueled by a surge in the number of small farms being converted into second homes and competition for properties owned by wealthy pensioners. General practitioners also say that doctors’ practices on the islands are poor and cramped.

The pay includes a 40% ‘increased rate’ on top of the normal pay range of £69,993 to £104,469 for Scottish GPs, an annual “far island allowance” of £1,279 per year and up to £8,000 in relocation costs.

So successful applicants paying the highest salary will receive more than £147,500 per year, including the Far Island bonus, and get 41 days’ holiday. Recruits will also receive a £10,000 golden halloween award after two years of service, funded by the Scottish Government.

Dr. Frank McAuley, the board’s medical director, said in the job description that these posts offered “a very exciting opportunity (to) escape the rat race and practice medicine in an idyllic setting.”

He said: “From the fishing port of Lochmaddy in the north to the glittering beaches of Lochboisdale in the south, the islands of Uist and Benbecula offer a warm welcome and are teeming with life, activity and culture.”

The recruits will be based at the Benbecula medical practice and will also work at the 17-bed community hospital.

NHS Western Isles offered higher salaries for the first time last year, 6% lower than those offered now, to fill long-standing vacancies on Barra and Vatersay, the Gaelic-speaking islands south of the Uists.

The British Medical Association, which has called for special measures to tackle rural vacancies, said these pay rates were evidence of how serious the rural recruitment crisis had become.

The report states that since 2013, the number of GPs in Scotland has fallen by almost 200 full-time doctors in total, and the number of practices by 9%, while the number of patients has grown by 7%. Some NHS boards are paying local doctors £900 a day to fill vacant posts.

Dr. Patricia Moultrie, deputy chair of BMA Scotland’s GP committee, said more than 40% of practices had at least one doctor vacancy. She said this recruitment struggle was the result of years of under-investment by the Scottish Government.

“All this shows that it is no longer feasible or plausible to think that we can simply continue as we are, in the belief that we are on track to grow the number of GPs needed to care for the people of Scotland to care and serve remote communities such as those in the Western Isles. ,” she said.

The Scottish Government said that, in addition to the £10,000 golden hellos, it was offering 50 bursaries of £20,000 to trainee GPs to train in ‘hard to fill’ posts, and spending £3 million over four years on a new national center for healthcare. healthcare and care at a distance and in rural areas.

“We are clear that patients who need a GP should always be seen, regardless of their location,” a spokesperson said.