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Lack of ‘financial incentives’ driving young doctors away from general practice

A lack of financial incentives could be the reason why the NHS is facing difficulties in recruiting young doctors to general practice, a new report has concluded. 

The Health Foundation’s report, ‘Fit for purpose? Workforce policy in the English NHS’, said that the financial gains set out for GPs in the 2004 General Medical Services (GMS) contract, have been gradually eroded over the years.

The contract initially appeared to have served GPs well by ending their responsibility to directly provide out-of-hours services to patients and by substantially increasing income, the report said, but this is misleading because over the years these benefits have been watered down.

Last year, health secretary Jeremy Hunt said the 2004 GMS contract was to blame for the subsequent lack of investment in general practice, adding that ‘the profession has been starved of resources progressively, with increases in hospital doctors but not increases in primary care doctors.’

However, Pulse recently reported that GPs are set to receive a 1% pay uplift next year, after an agreement was reached in February over 2016/17 contract negotiations between the GPC and the Government. 

The agreement included increased investment of £220m into the GP contract – a 3.2% total funding uplift – of which 1% has been calculated to the be pay uplift and 2.2% reimbursement to meet rising expenses facing practices. 

The Health Foundation’s report said: ‘GPs were perceived to have done very well out of the early years of the new contracts, although many of the financial gains have been eroded in subsequent negotiating rounds. This factor that may be feeding the continuing difficulty in attracting young doctors into family medicine.’­­