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Practices given funding to offer £10,000 ‘golden hellos’ to new GPs

Exclusive GPs moving to Essex will be handed up to £10,000 under plans for a ‘golden hello’ scheme to try to combat a recruitment crisis leaving practices ‘on the brink of collapse’.

The scheme, which has been funded via a £400,000 fire-fighting fund from health education chiefs, will see any GP moving to Essex and staying on for two years receive £5,000, with the possibility of another £2,500 depending on the level of deprivation and an extra £2,500 depending on how under-doctored the area is – with a maximum payment of £10,000.

Essex LMC, which has been heavily involved in fashioning the scheme, said it is one of a number of projects to be rolled out to try to solve the crisis which has left practices on the ‘brink of collapse’. The region is now short of the 143 full-time equivalent GPs recommended by NHS England’s primary care strategy.

Tendring and Braintree, in the north-east of the county, will be the two key priority areas to target with the ‘golden hello’ money, it said. Pulse revealed in January that the crisis in the region has seen one permanent GP having to serve more than 8,000 residents in one area in the north-east of the county.

There is no fixed overall budget for the scheme itself, but the money will be taken out of the £400,000 pot of emergency funding that Health Education England (HEE) has offered to local commissioners to spend on longer term and short term measures to plug the gaps in recruitment, including hiring more locum GPs and training more practice nurses.

Essex LMC chief executive Dr Andrew Bradshaw said: ‘GPs have to stay for two years [to earn] payments up to £10,000. We need to do it because some practices are on the brink of collapse.’

The move comes as a GP practice in Doncaster, South Yorkshire, has so far failed to attract a new doctor despite offering a golden hello payment twice the size. The Thorne Moor Medical Practice has for months been advertising a role which would pay a £20,000 bonus above earnings over the course of three years during which they would have to stay.

However, Dr Joe Firth, a partner at the practice, said: ‘Three people showed an interest, none of whom were qualified yet. Two pulled out of the interview process because they were offered jobs elsewhere. A third was a very good candidate and we offered him the job, but he decided for personal reasons that he couldn’t start until January. So we were left with nothing.’

‘The advert is going out again this month and this time we’re going to be even more obvious with the fact we’re offering this £20,000 incentive. It’s just bizarre [because] it’s a nice place to work.’

Dr Firth said the problem appeared to be that there are not enough new doctors opting to become GPs and those that were wanted to be locums or even work abroad.

He said: ‘The problem is there’s not enough new doctors coming through. For people who qualify now, there are so many jobs out there for them to choose from. I’m on a mailing list for GP trainers and trainees, and every day there’s a new email from a practice in Yorkshire looking for a doctor. They can pick and choose where they go. Lots of them want to be locums and I even hear lots are taking time out to go travelling or are going abroad to work. They see no incentive to joining a practice or staying there.’

Pulse revealed this week that at least 109 practices in the UK – including 91 in England – have already approached their LMCs about potentially closing as a result of funding and recruitment pressures.