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Flying Doctors Row

STRANRAER'S Galloway Community Hospital has become embroiled in a row over the use of doctors flown in from abroad to provide out-of-hours cover.

The hospital was named as one of several across Scotland which is using doctors from abroad to cover for local GPs at evenings and weekends, paying up to £1000 a shift.

The foreign locums dubbed "flying doctors" arrive at Prestwick Airport on the budget airline Ryanair, are collected by taxi and taken to the four-star North West Castle Hotel.

In some cases, it is alleged that stand-in doctors have begun shifts after up to 12 hours of travelling from their home countries, leading to concerns they are too tired to provide safe cover to patients.

The row has already led to the cross-party Scottish Parliament Health Committee writing to Health Secretary, Nicola Sturgeon, demanding to know why so many foreign doctors are being flown into Scotland to provide cover at more than four times the cost of Scottish GPs.

Up to half of Scotland's NHS Boards, including Dumfries and Galloway, are using the foreign doctors to provide the out-of-hours cover, it emerged at the weekend.

The at times controversial out-of-hours working arrangements were brought in because Scottish GPs said they were too tired to provide cover on top of their normal daily surgeries.

Health Committee Convener Christine Grahame MSP said that she was deeply troubled over the issue. She said:

"The whole point of out-of-hours care is not to have tired doctors looking after patients. It seems we have now replaced tired Scottish doctors with tired foreign ones.

"We need to be assured of the standards of patient care as it is ultimately peoples' lives we are talking about."

Dr Anthony Halperin, from healthcare charity the Patients Association, also expressed concern about doctors treating patients after travelling for 12 hours to Scotland.

"GPs must be on the ball at all times to ensure patients are properly diagnosed and treated," he said.

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