latest health care news

03.02.16

Over 100 GPs to be sent to unpopular regions with £20,000 bursary

More than 100 GP trainees will be offered a one-off bursary of £20,000 to work in areas that have struggled to recruit enough doctors over the past three years, NHS England has confirmed.

These areas have a good track record at training GPs, but have fewer applicants simply because of their geographical location. NHS England says this is only an initial reluctance and that those who are recruited “usually stay on after training”.

The 109 training places are spread throughout areas identified by Health Education England as having had the lowest fill rates between 2013 and 2015. These are:

  • Lincolnshire (HE East Midlands)
  • East Cumbria (HE North East)
  • West Lakes (HE North East)
  • South Cumbria (HE North West)
  • Blackpool (HE North West)
  • Northern Lincolnshire (Scunthorpe & Grimsby) GP Scheme (HE Yorkshire and the Humber)
  • Isle of Wight (HE Wessex)

Some of these areas are relatively remote and are not routinely used for medical school placement as a result, so they remain “unfamiliar” to doctors in training.

The incentive arrangement, called the Targeted Enhancement Recruitment Scheme, was welcomed by the Royal College of GPs (RCGP). Its chair, Dr Maureen Baker, said: “Across the country GPs and our teams will make in excess of 370m patient consultations this year – 60m more than five years ago – yet our workforce has remained relatively stagnant. We simply don’t have the capacity to deal with this relentless demand, and research has shown that this is more pronounced in some areas than others.

“In areas that are particularly struggling to recruit GPs, often more remote areas, or those with high levels of deprivation, something needs to be done to make living and working there an attractive prospect to potential new recruits.”

Baker said the scheme is something the RCGP has been proposing for some time, given that similar schemes having worked “really well” for other careers, such as teaching.

“We hope it will encourage new GPs to under-doctored areas in the best interests of providing safe care now and in the future, wherever our patients live,” she added.

“It is just one initiative in the 10-point-plan to build the GP workforce that the college launched last year with NHS England, Health Education England and the BMA and we will continue to work with the government and decision makers to ‘recruit, retain, return’ the thousands more GPs necessary to keep our profession – and the wider NHS – sustainable.”

But such a scheme will take a while to take effect, Baker warned, and reiterated the royal college’s argument that NHS England’s upcoming ‘emergency package’ for general practice must include resilience teams “that can be parachuted to stabilise staffing issues”, as well as a recruit-to-work scheme for practice nurses.

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