This site is intended for health professionals only

At the heart of general practice since 1960

GPs offered £2k cash bonus for working out of hours under new LES

GPs in a number of areas with severe staffing problems are to be offered £2,000 cash bonuses to sign up to work out of hours.

Northern Ireland's Health and Social Care Board has allocated £300,000 to fund the new enhanced service, which will be offered to GPs in Belfast and the South and South Eastern regions.

GPs who have never worked in out of hours or who has not done so for more than a year are eligible to work under the new LES, which the board hopes will ‘increase the medical manpower of the out-of-hours services in those areas’.

The cash bonus, which comes as a Pulse investigation in January revealed that individual GPs sometimes covered 370,000 patients overnight in South and West Northern Ireland, is dependent on GPs committing to do out-of-hours work for three to six months and complete the requirements of the LES.

A shortage of GPs, compounded by high levels of retirement and a lack of younger doctors, as well as rising indemnity costs, have been blamed for the staffing problems seen in out-of-hours services throughout the UK.

A letter sent to GPs in the three areas outlined an offer of a £1,000 bonus for working 25 hours over three months – including six hours training time – on top of pay for covering out-of-hours shifts. A further cash incentive of another £1,000 is paid after six months.

Each of the areas will receive £100,000 under the LES to ‘encourage local GP principals, salaried GPs and sessional GPs who have not worked for any of Northern Ireland’s five GP out-of-hours [services] in the past 12 months or more, to do so’.

The ‘A New Start GP OOH LES’ will also involve taking part in induction and introductory ‘taster’ sessions as well as ‘advice, support, information and training to make their return to out of hours work a more positive experience’.

A Health and Social Care Board spokesperson said: ‘The out-of-hours service is facing challenges due to increasing demand and difficulties associated with recruitment and retention of GPs.

‘Over the past few years, fewer doctors have made themselves available to work out of hours, particularly at busier periods.’

Dr Alan Stout, BMA GP Committee deputy chair for Northern Ireland, said ultimately a longer term solution was needed.

He said: 'We have a crisis in GP manpower both in and out of hours. We ultimately need to increase the out-of-hours rates - which have been unchanged for 11 years - to attract people to work in the service but also to cover ever increasing costs and in particular indemnity costs.'

He further suggested that the Health and Social Care Board was being forced into short-term measures such as this LES because of the lack of a current Government arrangement in Northern Ireland.

He said: 'Without a [health] minister and without a budget and an agreed rescue plan there cannot be a rate enhancement and so projects like this are required to try to attract new doctors into the system and to cover their costs, never mind pay them appropriately.

'It will be interesting to see what the result of this will be in terms of numbers, but long term more definitive change is needed including reviewing the overall model and reviewing the rates.'

GP out-of-hours staffing woes

Out-of-hours GP services are on a knife edge across the UK, with providers covering some four million patients admitting they have had overnight and weekend shifts over the past year with no GP cover, as a Pulse investigation revealed earlier this year.

One in ten areas admitted this was the case, while in the South and West of Northern Ireland GPs reported that the service was 'broken' with individual GPs regularly having to cover populations of 370,000 overnight.

At the time, GP out-of-hours leaders say this is part of a ‘worrying trend’, with fewer clinicians available and services often relying on non-medically qualified urgent health practitioners, nurses and paramedics.

In England, NHS leaders have focused on the disincentive of high out-of-hours indemnity premiums, by covering these in full during the winter months to try to boost the GP workforce.



Readers' comments (10)

  • Increase OOH pay for all workers - not just select bonuses .

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I would be pretty pissed off if I were one of the suckers who have been propping up the OOH over the last few years. Surely they should be included in the extra payments too.

    So much so that I would probably stop doing shifts or asking for an extra £40/ hour for the duration of the LES.

    If you pay people enough, they will do the job. Just value their service enough.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • £2000, about enough to cover extra cost for indemnity for a extra session a week, not enough

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Just fund the service properly and pay the market value of the staff.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • As noted above - will barely cover indemnity costs and might well be a cause of resentment to the docs who have apparently been soldiering on doing OOH under appalling conditions.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • And in the west where meltdown is now?????
    Medical apartheid in Northern Ireland, come on tom black fox this immediately

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I have no idea why someone things a stepped bonus like this will encourage more staff to work OOH than a more granular raise in the rate paid to all.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • AlanAlmond

    Sounds like they aren't allowed to increase the overall rate of pay which kind of says it all. No change in rate of pay for 11 years and yet indemnity rates are currently going up at around 12% a year (and that's for non OOH work - I don't know the figure for OOHs rates because I can't afford to pay them). It might sound lame but I haven't done a single out of hours shift since I became a GP 12 years ago. I've looked into it but I'd be taking a significant pay cut for doing work which is significantly more risky. I don't intend to subsidise a government which is already ripping me off in my day job. The solution is obvious but the government doesn't want to fund out of hours care - they seem to prefer ignoring the problem and/or blaming the ever reducing work force. Paying a 'bonus' can't be anything but a good idea made by desperate people but it isn't a solution, probably isn't enough and I agree would piss me off if I was one of the good folk already doing OOHs. I'm just glad I'm not working in Northern Ireland I really feel for you guys.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • It seems too little too late and after tax seems a bit insulting. Thank goodness I retired a few weeks ago after 42 years in the NHS but will there be anyone there for me should I have the misfortune to get ill?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • An insult to those who have been working regular shifts. Increase the pay rates for all!!!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say