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Extend London pay to nearby areas to stop GPs leaving, argue MPs

GPs in areas close to London should have their pay weighted to match those in the city, in an attempt to stop them leaving the local area for higher wages, MPs have argued.

MP Gordon Henderson – who represents Sittingbourne and Sheppey – said it is no coincidence that three of the five worst areas for GP-patient ratio are in Kent, and blamed the proximity to London.

He told members of the House of Commons the London weighting allowance should be extended to cover Kent, to make it easier to recruit GPs and other clinicians.

In response, minister for care Caroline Dinenage did not address the suggestion, but said the Government is ‘pushing harder than ever’ to meet its 5,000 extra GPs pledge.

Addressing the house, Mr Henderson said: ‘Although there is a nationwide shortage, the problem is more acute in my constituency, and across Kent generally.

‘Indeed, out of the top five areas in England with the worst GP to patient ratios, three of them —Swale, Thanet and Bexley— are in our county. That cannot be a coincidence.’

‘Doctors can earn more working in London than they can in Kent, because of the London weighting allowance.

‘I would like to see the London weighting allowance extended to cover Kent, which would make it easier to recruit not only doctors, but also other public sector professionals, such as nurses, police officers, teachers, fire-fighters and prison officers, all of whom it is difficult for us to recruit,’ he added.

The debate, which took place earlier this week, also saw another Kent MP Helen Whately – who represents Faversham and Mid Kent – warn of a practice in her constituency which has 4,000 patients for every GP.

She said: ‘My constituents also face some difficulties getting access to a GP in my area of Swale borough, and also on the Maidstone side of my constituency, where in one practice the ratio of GPs to patients is 1:4,000.

‘It is a real problem. I am concerned that there is not enough of a sense of urgency among some CCGs about fixing the problem.’

Minister for Care Ms Dinenage told MPs: ‘I completely recognise the challenges he describes, because my constituency faces almost identical issues with accessing GPs, inadequate roads, housing developments and trying to attract GPs to the area.

‘The Government recognise that this is an issue that affects the care patients receive. We are working very hard to address it and are pushing harder than ever to grow the workforce by the extra 5,000 GPs to which we have committed.’

In 2015, then health secretary Jeremy Hunt promised to add at least 10,000 extra primary care staff, including 5,000 GPs, within five years.

But although NHS England said it was ‘on track’ to recruit the 5,000 other staff, Mr Hunt admitted in June last year he was ‘struggling to deliver’ on GP numbers.

Earlier this year, health secretary Matt Hancock admitted to Pulse this target would not be met on time, and said that no new target date has been set.

This week, a major report from three think tanks warned the NHS will fall 7,000 GPs short within the next five years, adding that efforts to recruit more GPs will not be enough to save primary care.

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