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New GPs to be offered £20,000 ‘golden hello’ after local authority intervenes

GPs are to be offered golden hellos worth £20,000 as part of a scheme set up by a local authority, in the latest of a series of radical solutions to the recruitment crisis that is engulfing the profession.

Leicester City Council’s health and wellbeing board is allocating the money from a £250,000 fund from NHS Midlands and East with the aim of recruiting 12 new GPs to the city.

It comes after the local CCG highlighted the problems with GP shortages in the city, finding that 60 of 121 GPs partners in Leicester are over 50, indicating high retirement rates over the next ten years.

The scheme follows similar schemes in Essex, where Health Education England funding is being used to give golden hellos worth £10,000, while one practice in Doncaster is putting up £20,000 of its own budget in an attempt to fill a long-standing vacant partner post.

But this is the first report of the money coming from a local health and wellbeing board, and is the latest example of the various bodies that are taking action on the recruitment crisis that is affecting practices across the UK.

Professor Azhar Farooqi, a GP and co-chair of Leicester City CCG, lobbied the Leicester City Council health and wellbeing board to introduce an incentive scheme in the city by presenting a paper outlining problems of GP shortages.

The paper describes how younger GPs are showing a growing reluctance to become partners – preferring salaried or locum status – while highlighting the high number of potential retirements.

The chair of the board and deputy mayor, Rory Palmer, said he hoped the scheme would bring 12 new GPs to the city.

He added: ‘Patients had been telling us that they have long waits for appointments and were concerned about seeing locums regularly instead of the same doctor each time. Our GP community shared these concerns. Leicester is a challenging place to work because we have high levels of deprivation and high rates of things like cardiovascular disease.

‘We have single handed GPs here who are nearing retirement. This idea is a pilot this so we will evaluate it to see if it works. It may be that offering extra money isn’t the answer, but if it helps address the problems with recruitment and retention that it will be a good thing.’

The precise details of the scheme have not been worked out, but Mr Palmer said that it may involve giving GPs an extra £10,000 if they stay for one year and £20,000 if they commit to two or more.

The money could be paid gradually alongside GPs’ salaries over this time, he added.