Training of rural doctors Scotland

Delivering efficient and effective healthcare to rural communities in remote locations in the United Kingdom continues to be one of the toughest challenges facing NHS today. The increasing prevalence of chronic illnesses, uneven diffusion of medical technology, geographic restrictions and wage disparity are just some of the factors weighing down delivery of healthcare in such areas. Scotland, however, has the unique distinction of being the only country within the United Kingdom which has developed specialised training programs to prepare general practitioners for these challenges. This makes perfect sense, because 80% of Scotland’s population live in just 6% of its land area, while the balance 20% reside in the remaining 94% land area, most of which are located at remote locations.

Training of GPs in Scotland

Serving in rural communities requires GPs with strong ability in prehospital (emergency and trauma) and palliative care. GPs also need to have a strong and well-rounded knowledge of different disciplines to ensure they would be able to handle wide variety of ailments and illnesses on their own, unsupervised. To prepare GPs for these demanding requirements, the NHS Education for Scotland (NES) and NHS Scotland have developed the Rural Fellowship program, which is designed for new GPs.

The program requires new GPs to undertake an extra year of training which focuses on direct exposure to rural medicine. Fellows of the program are trained in practical rural settings on subjects ranging from acupuncture to physiotherapy. They are sometimes required to manage vulnerable families as well as participate in integrated emergency care.

Aside from that, the program’s fellows spend their time in clinical attachments in hospitals under the supervision of experienced mentors. They are also regularly sent to attend courses.

To ensure their training remains uninterrupted, fellows are provided with a comfortable allowance for the duration of the year.

Dr. Gray's Hospital in Elgin is a favoured location for GPs under the National Rural-track GPST Programme. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

North of Scotland General Practice

In addition, the North of Scotland General Practice also provides postgraduate GP education in National Rural-track GPST Programme. The three year program will see GPs placed at a hospital in the Rural General Hospital (RGH) systems, usually at Elgin or Inverness. The program aims to provide GPs with extra competencies for seamless transitions into postings in remote areas or rural communities.