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GP golden hello pilots fail to attract enough candidates

A pilot scheme paying GPs £20,000 to join local practices has ’not had the desired effect’ after running for six months, with the CCG considering withdrawing the scheme.

The £250,000 scheme, run by NHS Leicester City CCG with funding from NHS England, offered GPs up to £20,000 to join practices, but only three out of 16 practices have been able to find new GPs.

A report to the CCG’s primary care strategy group revealed that eight practices have failed to recruit through the scheme, while the remaining five ‘decided to recruit jointly’ with the CCG co-ordinating the process.

One unsuccessful practice has pulled out of the scheme altogether.

This comes amid efforts by NHS England to implement a nationwide ‘golden hello’ scheme to tackle the current recruitment crisis.

When suggesting the pilot scheme last year, Leicester City Council’s health and wellbeing board had aimed to recruit 12 new GPs to the city, but the CCG report said that it ‘seems the approach to recruitment to date has not yet yielded the increase [in] numbers of GPs expected’.

It said the board was ‘recommended to consider whether the scheme should be paused [while] expert advice is sought on how to undertake an effective recruitment process’.

The report to the strategy group meeting, held last week (5 May), said: ‘Clearly the scheme to date has not had the desired effect, eight practices despite trying have failed to recruit with only three practices being successful.’

‘The options available at the moment are to continue with the joint advert to see if this approach does have a fundamental difference. Or alternatively pause the scheme and utilise some of the funding to bring some expertise in to determine whether there is a different approach that could be taken to recruitment.’

But according to local newspaper the Leicester Mercury, which reported on the meeting, CCG leaders said they ‘could not just drop’ the recruitment scheme, especially in light of the Government’s plans for seven-day opening.

It decided that the advertising of the scheme should continue but advice be sought on how to better market the roles.

Despite the overall negative outcome, four GPs were recruited with the help of the scheme, filling positions that had been vacant for two years. The GPs were offered £10,000 each for two years, £20,000 in total, provided they did not leave the job.

NHS England agreed to fund the pilot after NHS Leicester City CCG highlighted urgent GP shortages and an expected hike in retirement rates over the next ten years as 60 of Leicester’s 121 GPs partners were over 50 at the time.

NHS England announced a £10 million, 10-point plan for solving the GP workforce crisis in January this year, which included plans to offer golden handshakes.

But primary care commissioning lead Dr David Geddes commented just one month later that golden hello schemes ‘don’t work’, leading only to bidding wars between different areas with GP recruitment problems.

The Conservative Party has promised to increase the number of GPs by 5,000 by the end of this Parliament in 2020.

Birmingham LMC executive secretary Dr Robert Morley said the Leicester pilot was ‘further evidence of how bad the GP workforce crisis really is’.

In response, he urged the new Government to ‘overhaul current contractual mechanisms’ and offer ‘new additional and recurrent money from the Treasury’.

He said: ‘This demonstrates the obvious – that one-off, short term sticking plaster solutions cannot possibly rescue general practice from the current disastrous and destructive recruitment and retention crises. It is also , and the government must pull its head out of the sand and acknowledge this. What we needed is significant, recurrent, sustained investment in both core contractual funding and in mechanisms to incentivise long-term developments in the general practice workforce.

‘Without this a safe basic GP service is soon going to become wholly untenable, let alone the government’s pie in the sky promises over seven-day working, same day routine access and all the rest of the undeliverable pre-election promises.’


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