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GP pay rises could be targeted at areas with recruitment problems, says DH

Exclusive The Department of Health is considering setting GPs’ pay uplift for 2016/17 according to where they are practising as a way of alleviating the recruitment crisis, it has told Pulse. 

Health minister David Prior wrote to the Review Body on Doctors’ and Dentists’ Remuneration (DDRB) today asking it to consider how an average uplift of 1% ‘could be applied to improve recruitment and retention’.

A spokesperson later confirmed to Pulse that this meant they would consult with the DDRB on whether practices’ funding uplift could be dependent on where they were based.

The GPC has criticised the proposals, and called for GPs across the country to be given pay rises of above 1%.

This is the latest attempt by the Government to boost recruitment to under-doctored areas, having devised a £10m ten-point plan to try to solve the GP recruitment problem.

The letter by Mr Prior sets the remit for the DDRB for next year’s funding uplift, and it calls on the review body to look at ways that it can set a 1% ‘average’ pay uplift for GPs.

As part of the process, the DDRB will look at evidence from the BMA and NHS Employers to decide what funding uplift to give to practices that will translate to the 1% pay rise.

The letter said: ‘For general medical practitioners and general dental practitioners, the Government would welcome the views of the DDRB as to how an overall pay uplift of an average of 1% could be applied to improve recruitment and retention.’

Asked whether this meant the DH would consider different uplifts in different geographical areas, a DH spokesperson said it was ‘consulting’ on the measure.

The spokesperson said: ’It’s just one of a number of things we are consulting on in order to determine how areas might be improved.’

The BMA’s evidence warned that GPs were being ‘unfairly punished’ after health secretary Jeremy Hunt claimed that years of underfunding in general practice was a result of ‘penance’ for the 2004 GP contract. 

It said that, as a result, the DDRB should consider giving GPs a higher pay rise that the 1% blanket pay rise offered to public sector workers by chancellor George Osborne.

Attempts at boosting recruitment in certain area have not as yet proved successful.

Pulse revealed that commissioners in Hull have scrapped a scheme offering MBAs to doctors committing to working as salaried GPs in the city after it failed to lead to any post being filled.

Health education bosses are also working on increasing the number of medical graduates going into general practice training via a national recruitment campaign. A third round of recruitment has seen a ‘600%’ increase in applicants compared to last year, however large regional variations remain with some areas half unfilled.

Health Education England (HEE) has identified six local offices experiencing low fill rates of GP trainees, namely Yorkshire; East Midlands; West Midlands; North East; East of England; and HEE Wessex (Isle of Wight only).

Chancellor George Osborne announced in the summer that NHS professionals, including GPs, would see the 1% uplift cap applied over the next four years.

Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chair of the GPC, said: ’When MPs received an uplift of 10% to their own pay, an overall uplift of 1% for GPs is not going to do much for recruitment and retention, and the more important issue of practice expenses needs to be fully addressed for GPs to even have a chance of getting the 1% intended. Recent experience has shown a 1% intended rise turning in to a 3% cut because of the government’s failure to properly invest in general practice.

’All areas of the country are struggling to recruit and retain GPs and so all practices and GPs across the country should receive any uplift.’