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Returning GPs 'cost £88,000 each'

By Nerys Hairon

A Government incentive scheme to tempt doctors to

return to the NHS has

cost £5.2 million to recruit just 59 GPs.

The finding, revealed in a Liberal Democrats report on the GP recruitment and retention crisis, means the cost of recruiting each GP through the returners' scheme has been £88,000.

The initiative, set up in

November 2002, can give GPs who have not been practising or who have been a locum

a £12,000 bonus to join a practice.

It was introduced as part of a package of Government measures to attract GPs, including golden hellos for newly qualified doctors and 'handcuffs' for GPs close to retirement.

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Paul Burstow said the Government was 'spending a lot of money without the mechanisms to look at the success of the schemes'.

But Dr Maureen Baker, joint-chair of the RCGP/GPC workforce committee, said the success of the returners' scheme was 'quite significant'.

She added: 'It costs £250,000 to £300,000 to train a doctor just up to graduation, so even if these figures were correct that seems to be a good investment.'

GPC joint-deputy chair Dr Hamish Meldrum said the initiative needed more time to prove its effectiveness.

The Liberal Democrat report also showed the golden hello scheme ­ which pays up to £12,000 for each new GP ­ has cost £26.2 million to date.

The Department of Health said 3,500 GPs have so far claimed the bonus.

A further £4.5 million has been spent on the delayed retirement programme which pays GPs £2,000 for each year they continue in practice between 60 and 65.

No figures are available for how many GPs have claimed the payment.

The report also accused the Government of hiding the scale of the recruitment crisis. It said just 65 whole time equivalent GPs had been recruited since 1999. The department said 1,535 GPs had been recruited between September 1999 and June 2003.

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