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Over 100 GP trainees set for £20k ‘golden hello’ to work in areas with shortages

Health education leaders will offer prospective GP trainees a £20,000 bursary if they’re willing to be placed in some of the most severely under-recruited regions.

The ‘golden hello’ will be given to 109 candidates who train in the seven areas with the lowest GP training fill rates, including Lincolnshire, Blackpool, the Lake District and Isle of Wight.

Trainees who work in these areas will be given a £20k lump sum at the start of their training placements, Health Education England (HEE) has said.

The financial incentive forms part of NHS England and HEE’s ten-point plan for the GP workforce and will be made available to GP trainees studying in Lincolnshire, East Cumbria, West Lakes, South Cumbria, Blackpool, Northern Lincolnshire (Scunthorpe & Grimsby) and Isle of Wight.

But GP leaders said there needed to be greater incentives, including the paying off of student loans, to make a real difference to these areas.

Under the scheme, prospective trainees who applied for the first round of GP training for the August 2016 intake have been offered the opportunity to apply for 109 bursaries by 12 February.

HEE highlights that schemes are struggling to recruit as a consequence of their remoteness from large cities, but say the quality of training is often better rated by trainees with many candidates choosing to stay on after training. But any trainee who fails to complete their placement will have to pay back the bursary.

The GP National Recruitment Office website states: ‘The new scheme will offer a one off bursary of £20,000 to GP trainees committed to working in one of 109 training places in England that have been hard to recruit to for the past three years.

‘These areas often have an extremely good track record for education, but are initially less popular simply because of their geographical location. However, those trainees that do come usually stay on after training, as they discover these locations’ hidden attractions.’

Pulse has catalogued the widening gaps in GP recruitment in recent years, which saw 40% of training places left unfilled in some regions despite HEE running three recruitment rounds and allowing failed applicants to reapply in the same year.

Dr Krishna Kasaraneni, chair of the GPC’s education, training and workforce committee, told Pulse: ‘We need to acknowledge that it’s not just about getting a trainee to an under-recruited area. Doctors will only consider a career in GP if they see it as something that is positive and the job is attractive – at the moment, it isn’t.

‘GPs made it clear at the Special LMC Conference that we need to look beyond the £20k golden handshakes and work towards payment of student loans as a means to address the recruitment crisis. The profession feel that incentives at that scale are needed to really make a difference.’

An NHS England spokesperson said: ’Although overall recruitment of GPs is increasing, we are determined to tackle the real problems that exist in certain parts of the country, which is why we are working with others including the BMA and RCGP to trial these bursaries following the success of a similar scheme in Leicester.’ 

Do golden handshakes work?

Golden Handshake - money - online

Golden Handshake – money – online

There is mixed evidence for the effectiveness of this type of financial incentive. NHS England’s primary care commissioning lead said last year that often merely create ‘bidding wars’. 

Pulse revealed last year that a £250,000 scheme, run by NHS Leicester City CCG offering trained GPs up to £20,000 to join practices, but only three out of 16 practices were able to find new GPs. As a result, the CCG recommended that the scheme be paused.

But Health Education England has to do something. There are recuitment gaps in some areas of England of up to 40% and these gaps are widening.