Sturgeon highlights rural health concerns

On a series of health related visits in Inverness and Nairn today
[Wednesday] SNP Shadow Health Minister, Nicola Sturgeon MSP, said that the SNP would take action to fill vacant GP posts in contrast to the Labour-led Scottish Executive's complacency on the matter. Ms Sturgeon was accompanied on her tour by Inverness East, Nairn & Lochaber MSP, Fergus Ewing, and SNP PPC for Ross, Skye & Inverness West, David Thompson.

Commenting Ms Sturgeon said:

" We have a real problem attracting GPs to work in rural areas and with some studies showing a 10% resignation rate from rural practices, urgent action is needed to address the situation.

" The problem is basically that most doctors don't want to move and work in rural areas. It is a big lifestyle change and there are not enough incentives. In addition rural GPs are on call more often as there are fewer of them to share an on-call rota. On top of that a shortage of support staff has meant many rural GPs are being swamped by paperwork.

" The Scottish Executive have done very little to solve this problem. They refuse to implement the SNP policy of competitive pay for key specialities where there are shortages – which includes GPs in rural areas."

Local SNP MSP, Fergus Ewing, continued saying:

" In the recent Temple Report the recommendations made regarding health provision in rural Scotland were not accepted by the Scottish Executive. I predict, as we saw in Helmsdale so we will find throughout the Highlands and Islands, severe difficulties in recruiting and retaining GPs and indeed nurses and other medical personnel in remote and rural areas.

" Sadly the coalition Executive have not yet even acknowledged this serious problem, far less taken steps to tackle it."

SNP PPC for Ross, Skye and Inverness West, Mr David Thompson concluded:

" Recent studies have shown that rural patients survival rate for cancer are lower because they do not want to trouble their overworked doctors, so it is clear that Labour's inaction on this matter is being reflected in the health of rural patients. In government the SNP will act swiftly to reverse the shortage of rural GPs by providing competitive pay to attract the health
professionals our rural areas deserve."