PEOPLE living in the Ayrshire countryside are suffering discrimination when it comes to medical treatment, according to an MSP.

Sharon Dowey says patients in rural areas find it harder to see a GP compared to those who live in large towns - with many having to travel long distances for even the most routine appointment.

She is calling on the Scottish Government to recruit more GPs and support staff such as nurses into Ayrshire's remote communities.

The Scottish Conservative MSP, who represents the South Scotland region, wants an increased role for specialist services such as pharmacies and optometrists to take the weight off doctors and free up time for appointments.

She would also like to see an upgrade in rural housing to encourage more GPs and medical staff to work in the countryside.

Ms Dowey also wants more to be done to encourage medical students to complete their training in rural areas, encouraging them to stay there in the long-term.

She said: "The Scottish Goverment's poor workforce planning has resulted in a shortage of GPs across the country, and that has been particularly prevalent in rural and remote areas across Ayrshire.

“That is why I am delighted to back plans put forward to help improve the situation for patients and local health services in Ayrshire, by making the most of pharmacists and optometrists to help ease the pressure on GPs.

“A lack of housing in Ayrshire has also had a major impact in attracting enough GPs to come and work here.

“Unless we start focussing on building homes here in rural areas, GPs won’t be able to make a permanent base here and stay for the long-term."

The Scottish Government denied they were neglecting countryside GP services.

A spokesperson said: “We recognise that GP practices in rural areas face unique challenges and have a range of initiatives to tackle this.

"This includes financial incentives and bursaries for newly qualified GPs,

"Our graduate entry medicine programme will see 44 students from last year enter general practice and 'Rediscover The Joy' allows experienced GPs to support remote and rural practices.

“We are also working to develop a Remote and Rural workforce recruitment strategy by the end of 2024, which will support employers to ensure that the health and social care needs of people who live in remote and rural communities are met."