And health bosses are particularly worried about the provision of rural practices across the region.
In a report for NHS board members, who meet in Dumfries on Monday, chief operating officer Julie White said: “Like all areas, the sustainability of many of our services is challenged by recruitment issues, especially, but not exclusively, in general medical practice.”
Of the region’s 34 practices, she says four are at ‘high risk’ of being unable to continue in their present form and ‘several’ others are under increased pressure due to vacancies.
Ms White added: “We also have had multiple vacancies in our GP training programme, and expect this to be a continuing problem in the medium term.
“Our experience tells us that small rural practices are becoming less attractive for new GPs – they are not attracted by the potential professional and social isolation.
“It is highly likely that there will be a significant reduction in the number of small rural practices, with larger practices more able to recruit and build a wider range of services.”
And she notes the issue could have wider implications with GP input into two of the region’s cottage hospitals and the prison service unable to continue under the current arrangements.
Solutions being tried include the launch of a recruitment website, recruitment drives in Holland and Southern Ireland, ‘Golden Hello’ payments and placements in the Falklands.
However, health chiefs know it might not be enough and Ms White said: “We recognise that we will be unlikely to attract enough GPs to the area as a result of the national reduction in doctors entering GP training.”
The NHS board are also training nurses to become advanced practitioners to extend their roles in surgeries and a further option being considered is developing clusters of practices.
Giving his view, medical director Dr Angus Cameron added: “It is likely that recruitment pressures across the profession will cause re-shaping of (especially rural) general practice, with a likelihood of practice mergers, withdrawal from branch surgeries and a greater range of services available from practices –
delivered by a multi-professional team, led by a smaller number of doctors.”