By Alisdair Stirling
A flagship scheme to provide practices with £200,000 or more in funding if they agreed to create a partnership has been scrapped to cut costs.
NHS South West Essex launched the succession planning scheme in October 2009 in an initiative hailed by the GPC as a potential model for the rest of the UK.
GMS practices were offered £80,000 in year one, £80,000 in year two and £60,000 over years three and four as a means of attracting new partners to the area – with the significant catch that they had to transfer to a PMS or APMS contract.
The scheme aimed to recruit 35 additional full-time-equivalent partners, targeting single-handed practices and those where GPs were considering retirement.
But a PCT spokesperson said the scheme had been scrapped because of the trust's £43m financial deficit. Pulse understands only a handful of practices had gained funding.
The spokesperson said: 'Due to the financial challenges in 2010/11 we were unable to fulfil this programme.'
Dr Brian Balmer, chief executive of Essex LMCs and a GPC member, said the loss of the scheme was a blow: 'We want to do something about succession planning. Who knows who will fund it? But in some areas 30% of GPs are over 60.'
Dr Richard Vautrey, GPC deputy chair, said financial uncertainties were making it hard for practices to plan their future workforce.
But he added: 'While we're concerned about the fall in GP principals' income, there's some evidence it is leading practices to take on principals rather than salaried doctors. The differential now is not so great.'
Dr Vijoy Singh, a member of the GPC´s sessional GPs subcommittee and a locum GP in Leicester said he was not aware of any such schemes locally and added there was a need for succession planning across the whole country: 'It could work elsewhere even though this one has failed.'
'But I don´t think that with the financial crisis, PCTs are going to fund it. Neither are consortia. Until the Government puts some money in with a ringfence around it, nothing´s going to change.'
Dr Brian Balmer