Trainee GPs will be offered £20,000 ‘golden hellos’ to take up posts in areas that are chronically understaffed as part of a government recruitment drive.
The incentive payments are part of a Health Education England bid to help boost the number of family doctors following a five per cent drop in applications for GP training in the last year.
Despite three recruitment rounds in 2015, around one in nine GP training posts in England were left unfilled, with areas in the north-east and east Midlands particularly affected.
Dr Richard Vautrey, the deputy chairman of the British Medical Association’s GP committee, told the Times that staffing problems were due to “workload pressures and lack of funding in general practice itself”.
Trainees will now be offered a one-off bursary of £20,000 to take up one of 109 training posts in some of the worst-affected areas in the country that include Lincolnshire, Blackpool, the Lake District and the Isle of Wight.
According to the GP news magazine Pulse, the GP National Recruitment Office (GPNRO) said these areas had an “extremely good track record” for education, but struggled in the popularity stakes because of their geographical location. It claims that many doctors stay on after training as “they discover the hidden attractions of these locations.”
New figures also show a record low of 4,863 applications for 3,790 GP training posts to start in August 2016, compared with 5,112 at the same stage last year.
GP’s leaders say the incentive payments do not go far enough to tackle the on-going crisis which has seen scores of practices across the UK reaching “breaking point” as they struggle to recruit staff.
They claim that further incentives such as the possibility of trainees’ student loans being paid off, are needed if they agree to take up unpopular posts.
Dr Krishna Kasaraneni, of the British Medical Association’s GP committee, told the Times: “We need to look beyond the £20,000 golden handshakes and work towards payment of student loans as a means to address the recruitment crisis.”