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GPs face postcode lottery over new childcare subsidies

A new £6 million Government scheme to help NHS professionals find and fund childcare will leave some GPs better off than others, Pulse has learned.

Some GPs can expect up to a 50 per cent discount on

nanny services under the latest extension of the NHS Childcare Strategy, but others will get nothing.

The Medical Women's Federation warned the scheme could result in a 'postcode lottery' of childcare support and provision.

A key part of the strategy is a new network of NHS childcare co-ordinators with discretion to provide financial subsidies to GPs and their staff over and above child tax credits.

Co-ordinators will assess GPs' childcare needs and apply to regional workforce confederations for cash support. Funds are allocated to confederations according to the severity of recruitment and retention problems.

Co-ordinators will advise on available NHS nursery places, hold lists of childminders prepared to work unsociable hours and provide emergency cover, and strike deals with private nurseries to expand the number of subsidised NHS places.

Medical Women's Federation spokeswoman Dr Fiona Cornish said: 'I'm delighted the NHS is taking this on but it could be very uneven and they must be careful that everyone can benefit. It would be much better to have some form of a voucher that you could pay to the nanny.'

GPs in Portsmouth will be able to access a subsidised

nanny service offering discounts of 10-50 per cent depending on income.

Dorset co-ordinators want to set up a network of childminders available to work unsocial hours and are considering making GPs eligible for a childcare voucher scheme currently only available to nurses.

GPs in Rochdale and Bury PCT could get a 50 per cent discount on holiday play schemes ­ a subsidy of £30 a week.

New mother Dr Victoria Holt, a GP due to join a practice in Hackney, east London, in June, said: 'The things that worry me are getting someone at short notice, the fact that GP hours go on much longer than nurseries and that you are penalised if you are late.'

Has the Government done enough to make general practice family-friendly?

E-mail your views to Pulse@cmpinformation.com

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