Golden hellos and bonuses to lure GPs

Charlie Cooper in The Independent highlights the disgraceful state of affairs where medics will have money thrown at them to try to rectify a problem that should never have arisen – medics may be quids in and the problem will still not be satisfactorily resolved.

Trainee medics could be offered cash incentives to work as GPs in unpopular parts of England, under Government  plans to provide round-the-clock care by family doctors.

The Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, believes that hospitals will be “overwhelmed” if people do not have access to medical care close to home.

Jeremy Hunt

The Health Secretary – Jeremy Hunt

As part of plans to recruit 5,000 more GPS by 2020, the Government and NHS England will focus efforts on areas that have struggled to recruit new GPs. In the East Midlands and North-East England, nearly one in three GP training posts went unfilled last year, compared to almost all jobs filled in London.

The NHS has expanded the number of GP training places available, but there are fears that there could be even more vacancies than last year. In order to entice young doctors into working in less-popular areas, the Government will consider offering “targeted financial incentives”.

It follows a scheme used by the NHS in Leicester, where new GPs were attracted in with £20,000 “golden hello” packages after local officials became concerned about low recruitment and the high numbers of GPs retiring. It is not clear what form the incentives might take around the country.

Mr Hunt has today said that, with an ageing population and more people living with chronic health conditions, the NHS now needs “effective, strong and expanding general practice”. He will also pledge to appoint 10,000 new staff for surgeries. As well as the 5,000 new GPs, this will include practice nurses, district nurses, pharmacists and physician associates – health professionals trained for two years to perform some of the duties of a doctor.

Medical trainees who choose to become GPs will also be offered an extra years specialist training in areas such as paediatrics or mental health, creating a new breed of semi-specialist GPs.

To fuel the recruitment drive, a marketing campaign will urge young doctors to join the profession, which is often seen as highly demanding and unglamorous.

The plans to apply to England. A survey of UK GPs revealed that one in three is considering retiring in the next five years, and the British Medical Association said Scotland is facing its own recruitment “crisis” with one in five practices working with at least one vacant GP post.

Mr Hunt will urge GPs to back the “new deal”, which he said would improve services for patients. He will also challenge family doctors to embrace his plans for surgeries to open seven days a week, which have proved unpopular within the profession.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the BMA’s  GP committee, said the doctors’ union stood “ready to work with the Government to bring forward practical solutions”.

However, Dr Nagpaul – who recently described the Government’s seven-day access plans as a “surreal obsession” – said funding evening and weekend opening may be the wrong use of limited resources.

Dr Maureen Baker, chair of the Royal College of  Practitioners, praised Mr Hunt for not following the pattern of  previous governments who she said used GPs as a “whipping post”.

“Things should have been done years ago to stop the rot. It sounds great, but a good, free, across the board health service that we could be proud of is ‘beyond the pale ‘now”