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Hunt promises extra £20k for GP recruits to rural areas

But ‘golden hello plan’ for rural GPs will not solve GP workforce crisis, BMA warns

Louise Prime

Thursday, 12 October 2017

The ‘golden hello plan’ for GP recruits to rural areas announced by Jeremy Hunt today is welcome but will not solve the GP workforce crisis as other areas are also suffering shortages, the BMA said this morning. It warned that the government is on course to miss its GP recruitment target.

The independent health charity the Nuffield Trust also welcomed the health secretary’s announcement of measures for trainee GPs to receive a £20,000 ‘golden hello’ to work in parts of the country struggling to recruit, which it said could help enhance health care in rural areas. But it pointed out that GP retention is also a huge problem for the NHS, and that the policy’s real test will be whether new GPs moving to areas where the additional payment is offered are retained there.

Its senior policy fellow Rebecca Rosen said: “With general practice under immense pressure and some areas of the country struggling to recruit any family doctors at all, this is a positive and much-needed boost to health care in rural areas.

“But attracting trainees is only half the battle: the NHS is struggling to hang on to qualified GPs, with surveys showing 56% plan to retire or leave practice early. Many trainees also drop out when they finish. Like many areas of the NHS, pressure of work, low morale and the impact of staff shortages is making it harder and harder to keep family doctors in practice. So the real test for this policy will be in ensuring trainee GPs tempted to work in these rural areas will stay.”

The BMA said general practice is facing “unprecedented pressure” as workload has risen at the same time as budgets have stagnated, resulting in a workforce crisis leaving “many parts of the country without enough GPs to treat patients”, and it struggled to see what exactly Jeremy Hunt’s proposal was adding to existing schemes.

Dr Richard Vautrey, BMA GP committee chair, said: “These proposals do appear to acknowledge the specific problems facing rural areas in England. But ‘golden hellos’ are not a new idea and unlikely to solve the overall workforce crisis given we are failing badly to train enough GPs to meet current demands. There is already an incentive programme for ‘hard to recruit areas’ that has been operating since 2016 and it is not clear whether this new announcement, which comes without any real details, is any different from that scheme.”

He went on: “There are also many other areas of the country, including urban areas, that are also suffering from GP shortages. A recent BMA survey found that one in three practices nationwide had vacancies that they were unable to fill after 12 months.

“The government is not on course to reach its target of 5,000 extra GPs by 2020. We need the government to commit to a long-term plan that gives general practice the resources it needs to deliver the service patients deserve.”

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