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Seven-day GP recruitment incentives ‘unsustainable in the long term’

Seven-day access pilots had to pay extra to GPs to fill shifts during extended hours, a situation which is unlikely to be sustainable in the longer term, the official evaluation has concluded. 

The report into the first wave of the Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund (PMCF) pilot – which also suggested Sunday appointments should be scrapped due to low demand – said that the pilots faced problems with recruiting GPs, often finding themselves ‘competing’ with out-of-hours providers.

As a result, many resorted to offering financial incentives, which ‘may not be sustainable in the long term’.

Pilots also struggled to recruit advanced nurse practitioners (ANPs), the evaluation found.

The researchers added that they expect that all local health economies moving towards extended access were likely to face these same issues.

The report said: ’Wave one pilots did experience some capacity issues, which manifested themselves often as difficulties in recruiting or competing with out-of-hours providers for GP time.

’The short-term nature of the contracts of the pilot schemes also contributed to this.There remains some concern around the availability of ANPs in particular, which are likely to be exacerbated as more local health economies press ahead with seven day services and introducing skills mix.

’Similarly, to date some pilots have relied on incentivising GPs to resource PMCF initiatives and this may not be sustainable in the long term.’

It comes as Pulse reported that one of the Manchester Demonstrator seven-day access schemes, hailed by the Prime Minister as a blueprint for the Challenge Fund, is having to pay GPs £90 per hour to fill shifts, almost two years after beginning to offer extended hours.