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One small step towards attracting GPs

It is heartening that the Department

of Health is finally facing up to the GP recruitment crisis. Encouraging GPs outside the profession to return with the promise of flexible hours, retraining for up to 12 months, and the opportunity to work less than half-time for up to four years is to be welcomed, especially when linked to a 'golden hello' of up to £12,000 and an additional professional expenses allowance. Providing practices with partial reimbursement of the cost of taking on returning GPs will also help.

But ministers must realise it is not a complete answer to GP shortages. Bribing GPs to return to the profession is likely to reap short-term dividends, and will prove a costly and wasteful exercise if those GPs do not stay on.

The parties involved in the new contract negotiations have an unrepeatable opportunity to make a lifelong career in general practice attractive again. They must not squander it.

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