Retired doctors to return to work to boost rural hospital staff

By Laura Paterson, Political Reporter, Press Association Scotland

A new drive has been launched to encourage recently retired doctors to return to work to help services in rural areas which struggle to recruit.

The initiative involves clinicians who have recently retired or who are working part time taking on short-term work at rural general hospitals.

Speaking at the launch in Edinburgh, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said medical education must adapt to changing circumstances. But opposition parties said it showed the extent of the workforce “crisis” in Scotland’s NHS.

The recruitment drive for retired clinicians is part of the Scottish Clinicians Collaborative, being developed by the Scottish Government and the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh.

No target number of places has been set yet but 30 surgeons and anaesthetists have so far registered an interest in taking part.

Part of the package for working away home includes paid-for accommodation.

Ms Freeman said: “We are experiencing a period of unprecedented change and medical education must adapt and evolve to meet the expectations of our healthcare services.

“Our health service benefits if we can retain the expertise and skills of our most experienced doctors and health professionals.

“We are committed to high quality care in our rural communities.

“These highly experienced clinicians have told us that they would welcome the opportunity to maintain their clinical interests in more flexible ways, making them ideally suited to working in rural environments.”

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman launched the scheme in Edinburgh (Andrew Milligan/PA)

After retiring from NHS Ayrshire and Arran last year, consultant surgeon Robert Diament has returned to the health service as a travelling locum consultant surgeon in Scotland’s remote and rural hospitals.

He said: “This joint venture is an opportunity for senior consultants from across the country to come together and provide specialist services wherever and whenever they are required.

“This support is required in some of Scotland’s more remote communities where the sustainability of specialist hospital services is particularly challenging.”

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Miles Briggs said: “Scotland is lucky to have so many retired doctors who are willing to return to the frontline.

“Of course, had the SNP Government not bungled the training of new recruits, none of this would be necessary.

“It’s yet another reminder about just how badly this nationalist administration has failed when it comes to planning for the future of the NHS.”

Scottish Labour’s health spokeswoman Monica Lennon said: “Any steps being taken to support local and rural services in our NHS are to be welcomed but the need to bring doctors out of retirement underlines the staffing crisis in our hospitals and GP surgeries after twelve years of SNP mismanagement.”