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Lib Dems to focus on incentivising GPs to work in deprived areas

A Liberal Democrat health minister has indicated he is looking at incentivising GPs to work in deprived areas, potentially above and beyond negotiations around the Carr-Hill formula, ahead of next year’s general election.

According to the Independent newspaper, which quoted Mr Lamb in its Sunday edition, a ‘patient premium’ paid to GPs in ‘under-doctored’ areas would make sure it pays for GPs to work in poorer communities.

A special adviser to Mr Lamb told Pulse that the Carr-Hill formula – which calculates the global sum practices receive based on a number of factors, including patient demographics, mortality and rurality – was one aspect of incentiving GPs in deprived areas,

The Independent quoted Lamb as saying: ‘My concerns are health inequalities and under-doctored areas. We need to combat ill-health and improve preventive care by concentrating on areas where there is poorer access [to doctors’ surgeries].’

He added: ‘We’re looking at improving these areas with the idea of creating incentives to get GPs working in areas where they can be really effective. In my view this [inequality] is something that still needs to be addressed.’

A formula review group is currently discussing how the Carr-Hill formula may be redistributed to take greater account of deprivation, after such a policy was agreed in principle between the Department of Health and the GPC in 2011 but subsequently delayed several times, and most recently set for a 2015/16 implementation.

Speaking to Pulse, an adviser to the minister said she was unable to confirm what would form part of the Liberal Democrats’ upcoming election manifesto but that the minister was making ‘general comments’ about the importance of GPs being incentivised to work in deprived areas.

She said: ‘He was talking about the importance of incentivising GPs in deprived areas, and certainly one aspect to that is the ongoing discussions between NHS England and the GPC about the Carr-Hill formula but he wasn’t making specific reference to that policy, because the discussions on that are ongoing and GPC and NHS England have agreed in principle to look at that in the contract negotiations.’

‘So it was more a general point he was making about the importance of incentivising GPs. The details of what will be in the manifesto I am not at a stage of being able to tell you, because it has got to go through all of our party processes to be agreed.’

As Pulse reported in January, NHS England refused to release full details on who forms part of the Carr-Hill review group but the work is being coordinated by NHS Employers.