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GPs to be paid £200k incentives to offer partnerships

By Nigel Praities

Exclusive: Practices are to be offered hundreds of thousands of pounds each to take on partners under a pioneering incentive scheme, Pulse can reveal.

NHS South-West Essex has become the first PCT in the country to offer incentives to practices to create partnerships, in a scheme that has been hailed by the GPC as a potential model for the rest of the UK.

Pulse revealed last month that negotiators were discussing how LES payments could be offered by PCTs to encourage creation of partnerships, in an attempt to avert a split in the profession.

The new plan to plough millions of pounds into the promotion of partnerships is directly in line with the central demand of Pulse's One Voice campaign, which has called for incentives to make partnerships more financially attractive to practices.

The scheme has been designed to attract ‘new blood' and address a sudden recruitment crisis in general practice, after employment consultants warned salaried GPs had become so disillusioned they were refusing to apply for non-principal positions.

Practices will be offered as much as £225,000 to offer a GP a formal partnership agreement – which will have to meet certain minimum standards – along with hitting targets to improve access and performance.

GMS practices will be offered £80,000 in year one, £80,000 in year two and £60,000 over years three and four, and must transfer to a PMS or APMS contract.

PMS practices will also be offered incentives, although funding will be ‘offset by any growth monies' they receive.

Practices will also be offered up to £5,000 for the costs of drawing up a partnership agreement and advertising the post.

The scheme in South-West Essex aims to recruit 35 additional full-time-equivalent partners to the area, targeting single-handed practices and those where GPs are considering retirement.

A spokesperson from the PCT said it was in discussions with four practices to avert an impending GP shortage and tempt ‘young, innovative GPs' into the area: ‘The Succession Planning Scheme will see us fund practices to employ an additional partner, pump-priming this over a number of years.

‘It will enable smaller practices to develop into larger surgeries offering more GPs,' the spokesperson added.

Dr Brian Balmer, chief executive of Essex LMCs and a GPC member, said the scheme was ‘novel' and could be used as a model elsewhere in the UK.

‘I am totally behind this. I give credit to the PCT, but I've been nagging it for a very long time. It has had the balls to do it.'

‘If we don't promote partnerships, we're not going to keep general practice as we want it, or do what the DH wants, which is to expand primary care.'

Dr Vicky Weeks, chair of the GPC's sessional GPs subcommittee, said the scheme was ‘a very good idea' and one of a number of options for encouraging partnerships. ‘We are looking at the whole issue of workforce planning and are working on various models,' she said.

Dr Vicky Weeks: Scheme is a 'very good idea' Dr Vicky Weeks: Scheme is a 'very good idea' Pledge your support for the One Voice campaign

For more information on the Pulse One Voice campaign petition, and to pledge your support, please click here.

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