A new national centre that aims to improve the provision of primary care in remote and rural Scotland has been announced by the Scottish Government.
The National Centre for Remote and Rural Health and Care, expected to launch next month, will initially focus on strengthening a range of primary care services, including from GPs and dispensing practices, for rural and island communities.
The project will be backed by funding of £3m over the next two years. NHS Education for Scotland (NES) will lead the set-up, building on the work done by Remote and Rural Health Care Alliance.
The centre will work with health boards both virtually and locally to develop new ways of delivering care to patients. It will also identify innovative approaches for improving recruitment of rural primary care staff and skills development.
NES said it will work closely with stakeholders to develop the centre, avoiding a one-size-fits-all approach. Learning generated from this work will then be shared to benefit other healthcare services in all areas of Scotland, it said.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said more detail on specific approaches would be published once the centre was fully operational.
Announcing the plans as part of the Scottish Government’s Programme for Government, Health Secretary Michael Matheson said establishing the centre was a ‘significant undertaking’ that would address the ‘unique challenges’ of providing high-quality healthcare in rural and island communities.
‘I expect the centre to start by identifying approaches to improve rural primary care staff recruitment and develop the skills of remote and rural staff. We hope these measures will increase capacity to deliver care close to home for patients and ensure healthcare inequalities some rural communities currently face are significantly reduced,’ he said.
The Scottish Government’s Remote and Rural GP Working Group proposed the centre in its Shaping the Future Together report in 2020.