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Gold, incentives and meh

RCGP predicts new contract will speed up exodus of GPs

GP shortages will get worse before they get better, the RCGP has warned. And the new contract could even exacerbate recruitment and retention in the short-term.

The warning, from college vice-chair Dr Tina Ambury, came after latest BMA figures showed a worrying increase in GP vacancy rates.

In November 2002, 3.4 per cent of posts in England were unfilled for three months or more, and 2.8 per cent were vacant in Wales. In one area vacancies were as high as  · 6 per cent.

Dr Ambury said the GPC had an almost impossible job trying to negotiate a contract that prevented GPs leaving the profession.

If they secured a good pensions deal many older GPs would retire but if it was deemed unsatisfactory many would quit anyway.

Dr Ambury, an associate GP in Penwortham, Lancashire, said: 'I do not envy the negotiators. They are damned if they do and damned if they don't. That's why I think recruitment will get worse before it gets better.'

Recruitment could also suffer if the practice-based contract forced locums to choose between taking a practice partnership and quitting, she said.

GPC chair Dr John Chisholm said some areas of the country were approaching 'meltdown' because of the shortage of GPs.

The BMA published its recruitment survey as GP contract negotiations entered the final delicate stages. Dr Chisholm denied the timing was designed to pile pressure on the Government.

'I think the Government is just as concerned that there are insufficient numbers in the workforce,' he said.

Fourteen of the 89 English trusts that responded to the survey had three-month vacancy rates more than double the 3.4 per cent average.

Government figures for February 2002 put unfilled posts at 2.7 per cent for England and 1.8 per cent for Wales.

GP recruitment: 10 worst-hit PCTs

PCT Vacancy rate (%)

Greenwich 16.0

Bexley 13.4

North-East Lincolnshire 13.1

Doncaster East 11.8

Burnley, Pendle and Rossendale 11.0

Southend on Sea 10.4

Suffolk Coastal 9.5

Wednesbury and West 9.0

North Kirklees 8.4

Doncaster West 8.3

Figures based on the number of vacancies unfilled for three months or more

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