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Government expands £20k GP trainee ‘golden hello’ scheme after 90% take-up

The Government has increased the scale of this year’s GP trainee ‘golden hello’ scheme, after a promising take-up last year.

The expansion will see 265 trainees across England receiving a £20,000 golden handshake to work in an area struggling with recruitment, up from a planned 200.

The Government said the expansion of the scheme, which will cost it an extra £1.3m, comes as take-up has increased since it launched.

Health minister Steve Brine MP said 86% of these posts were filled in 2016, and 92% filled in 2017.

In a written statement to Parliament, Mr Brine said: ‘The scheme is open to GP trainees committed to working for three years in areas identified by the GP National Recruitment Office as having the hardest to recruit to training places in England.

‘At the end of January 2018, 238 GP trainee vacancies were filled, of which, 105 trainees entered the scheme in its first year in 2016, and a further 133 entered the scheme in 2017.

‘The fill rate increased from 86% in 2016 to 92% in 2017. 250 places are being made available in 2018.’

However, Mr Brine told Pulse: ‘GPs are a vital part of the NHS and we recognise there are areas of the country where recruitment has been challenging – that’s why we’ve expanded the enhanced recruitment scheme from 200 to 265 training places.

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‘This will help to boost GP levels in communities which have traditionally found it hard to recruit and ease the pressure on practices.’

The news comes as the GP workforce recently continued to shrink, with 219 full-time equivalent GPs leaving the profession between September and December 2017.

BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said Health Education England informed the GPC of the expansion at a recent BMA workforce meeting.

He said: ‘We welcomed it as there does appear to be some evidence that these places are being filled, and it does provide some additional support to individual GPs.

‘We did make the point though that many other areas have recruitment problems and would also benefit from similar levels of additional investment.’

What is the golden hello scheme?

The ‘Targeted Enhanced Recruitment Scheme’ (TERS) was revealed by Pulse to be one of the flagship measures for tackling stubbornly low uptake of GP training places.

It was first announced by health secretary Jeremy Hunt at the RCGP conference in October last year.

In 2016, TERS accounted for half of the 200 extra doctors recruited to GP training after two rounds of recruitment, while training boards in Wales launched their own version of the scheme.

The Department of Health and Social Care had also asked HEE to ensure that many of the 1,500 additional medical training places that are to be funded from September this year be located in these hard to recruit areas, with five new medical schools to launch in Sunderland, Lancashire, Canterbury, Lincoln and Chelmsford.