SNP launches drive to lure English doctors to Scotland

In the week when thousands of staff are to go on strike, the SNP launches a drive to lure medics north of the border

The Scottish government has launched an inflammatory campaign to poach junior doctors from England in the week thousands will strike over pay and conditions.

SNP ministers have signed off on a recruitment drive to attract more junior doctors to work in Scotland and have produced videos which will be shown on social media.

Nicola Sturgeon’s administration has insisted the drive is designed to coincide with applications for medical training places which open across the UK on 10 February – the same day up to 37,000 junior doctors in England plan to strike. The campaign is likely to draw anger in Westminster ahead of the second of three planned NHS walkouts. 

The 10 February action was originally set to be a full walkout – meaning medics would even have refused to staff emergency care. But the British Medical Association stepped back from the brink last week, promising to “minimise” the impact of the action. However, at the same time the union extended the walkout to 24 hours rather than the action from 8am to 5pm originally announced.

The Scottish government’s campaign features a series of videos, with interviews with trainee doctors working in NHS Scotland. A government source said they had been produced to “highlight the many positive aspects of training, working and living in Scotland”. 

The campaign will run until 9 March, the deadline for trainees across the UK to submit their applications for medical speciality training places. Adverts are also being placed in medical career journals “to raise awareness with doctors across the UK of the opportunities that training in Scotland provides”. One of the adverts, obtained by The Independent on Sunday, shows a picture of two doctors with the words “I feel valued” and the hashtag #juniordocscot.

Launching the recruitment drive, Scotland’s Health Secretary Shona Robison, said: “Junior doctors are valued members of our healthcare team here in Scotland and are integral to our continuing drive to improve care to the people of Scotland.” In contrast to Westminster, Ms Robison said the Scottish government “continues to maintain strong, positive relationships with the profession”. 

Pressure is growing on the health service, particularly in accident and emergency. Official figures reveal there has been a 29 per cent increase in two years in the number of people leaving A&E before being seen.

Shadow Health Secretary Heidi Alexander said: “This is yet another sign of the worsening crisis in A&E. Cuts to social care and difficulties in getting a GP appointment have left hospitals overwhelmed.”

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