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Jeremy Hunt to announce £20k 'golden hello' for GPs starting in rural areas

GPs in training will receive a 'golden hello' of £20,000 if they start their careers in the countryside or on the coast in a bid to boost the number of family doctors in areas with difficulty recruiting.

GPs in training will receive a 'golden hello' of £20,000 if they start their careers in the countryside or on the coast in a bid to boost the number of family doctors in areas with difficulty recruiting.


Picture: iStock

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt is to introduce a package of measures to help the struggling GP workforce.

This includes a one-off payment to try to entice 200 GPs who are beginning their careers to work in areas struggling to secure family doctors – such as rural practices and those by the seaside.

From 2018, surgeries in hard to recruit to areas will benefit from the new £4 million scheme.

Addressing the Royal College of GPs annual conference in Liverpool, Mr Hunt will also announce plans for flexible working for older GPs, to encourage them to stay in the workforce for longer before retiring.

Meanwhile, he will confirm plans for an overseas recruitment office which will try to lure GPs from countries outside Europe – particularly Australia – to come and work in England.

Physician associates consultation

The Department of Health has also launched a consultation on the regulation of physician associates (PAs) to provide further clarity on the scope of the role.

It is hoped that these PAs – usually science graduates who have undergone two years of intensive training – can help support healthcare teams across the country.

But concerns have previously been raised over plans to use more PAs to perform medical duties including examining patients, diagnosing illnesses and analysing test results.

Leading medical professionals have warned the new posts should not be used as a way of replacing doctors.

In his speech to delegates, Mr Hunt will also try to address one of the main concerns facing the GP workforce – the rising costs of indemnity.

Clinical negligence scheme

Mr Hunt will signal plans for a new state-backed scheme for clinical negligence indemnity for general practice in England.

It is hoped that this would create a long-term solution to the increasing fees which are forcing doctors out of the profession, with the average doctor now paying out £8,000 a year for clinical negligence indemnity cover.

The government will work with medical defence organisations, the Royal College of GPs and the British Medical Association to come up with the best way forward, a Department of Health spokesperson said.

'Last month, the Care Quality Commission gave a glowing verdict on the state of general practice in England, but this should not distract us from the fact that the profession is under considerable pressure at the moment,' Mr Hunt said.

'By introducing targeted support for vulnerable areas and tackling head-on critical issues such as higher indemnity fees and the recruitment and retention of more doctors, we can strengthen and secure general practice for the future.

'Our talented GP workforce is one of the reasons why we have the best healthcare system in the world, and our commitment of an additional £2.4 billion a year for primary care by 2021 will ensure this continues.'

'Unlikely'

British Medical Association GP committee chair Richard Vautrey said: 'General practice is facing unprecedented pressure from rising workload, stagnating budgets and a workforce crisis that has left many parts of the country without enough GPs to treat patients.

'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.


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