Funding agreed for two more out-of-hours GPs

There have been no out-of-hours GPs based at the Knoll since 2014.
There have been no out-of-hours GPs based at the Knoll since 2014.

Funding for an additional two GPs to join the Borders out-of-hours health care team is part of the latest Scottish Government effort to tackle primary care issues.

Across Berwickshire, there was widespread concern when it was revealed in January 2014 that staff shortages had forced NHS Borders to reorganise its out-of-hours service and centralise staff at Borders General Hospital, withdrawing services from localised centres such as the Knoll at Duns, the distances from the Melrose hospital from the more remote areas being the main concern,

Since then, the out-of-hours service has been operating from the the hospital, and the Scottish Government has undertaken a country-wide review of primary care services.

Announcing £2m of funding for health projects across Scotland, Health Secretary Shona Robison admitted: “There still remain challenges in recruiting and retaining doctors to work in general practice.”

The £2m will be spent on: two new posts to combine GP hours in out-of-hours periods in the Borders with daytime hours in other areas; a rural medicine collaborative involving seven rural boards (not NHS Borders) to develop a unified recruitment strategy and create a community of rural GPs; development of a locum pool of retired GPs in Lothian; and new GP development fellow posts to encourage GPs to either take up post or continue general practice.

Annabel Howell, associate medical director for primary and community services at NHS Borders, said: “NHS Borders has been allocated additional funding from the Scottish Government to help with GP recruitment and retention across the area.

“This extra resource has the potential to bring new GPs to the area. The funding is designed to be used in a collaborative way across primary and acute services in the Scottish Borders, helping improve patient care seven days a week including in the out-of-hours period.”

Mark Rowley, chairman of Lammermuir Community Council, said: “It is certainly positive if our residents’ concerns about lack of out-of-hours resources for the more remote rural communities are being recognised.

“Along with other Berwickshire community councils we made the case to the Health Minister’s recent review that we are furthest from all resources – A&E, out-of-hours, GPs and ambulance crews.

“If the new positions are to be in Berwickshire, then that should be welcomed, but if it is just two extra part-time out-of-hours positions spread across almost 2000 square miles of the Borders, it doesn’t seem likely it will have much of an impact on the experiences of remote rural communities such as those in the Lammermuirs.”