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‘Golden hello’ expansion will not solve GP crisis, warns BMA

Health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has announced plans to expand the ‘golden hello’ scheme in an attempt to recruit more GPs to rural areas.

Through the scheme, last year over 100 trainee GPs received a one-off payment of £20,000 in order to entice them into rural clinics struggling to recruit talented staff.

Speaking at the RCGP conference in Liverpool today, Hunt announced that the scheme will be extended to 200 trainees from next year if they start their careers in one of the 20 areas across England that have been identified as struggling to recruit.

The GP shortage in the UK is an ongoing problem, with patients unable to make an appointment with their GP or practice nurse on 47.5 million occasions last year.

Chief executive of the Rural Services Network, Graham Briggs, has welcomed the initiative: “It is vital that we encourage more GPs to work in rural areas and this government initiative will of some way to doing that.”

However, the BMA is less optimistic. Dr. Richard Vautrey, BMA committee chair, has warned that a ‘golden hello’ is not enough: “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 also cautioned that the government does not appear to be on on track to meet its target of 5,000 extra GPs by 2020, and argued that a long term plan is needed.

Nuffield Trust senior policy fellow, Rebecca Rosen, has advised that attracting trainees is “only half the battle.”

She warned work pressure, low morale and staff shortages are making it harder to retain GPs: “The NHS is struggling to hang on to qualified GPs, with surveys showing 56% plan to retire or leave practice early,” she stated. “Many trainees also drop out when they finish.”


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