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Golden handshakes: a sticking plaster for hydrophobic trainees



So what’s wrong with Lincoln? Or Blackpool? Or the Lake District? Or the Isle of Wight? Or any of those areas that are, apparently, having such problems recruiting GP trainees that Health Education England is offering a £20,000 bursary to entice some of them to the local VTSs?

Let’s think. Lincolnshire. Right next to The Wash, right? Blackpool? By the seaside. Isle of Wight? Surrounded by water. The Lake District? Full of, let’s think, er, lakes.

Weird, isn’t it? GP trainees are hydrophobic. Which means either that they’re all rabid, or that all that talk about us drowning in work has damaged their psyche, creating a mass aquatic neurosis.

Whatever. I get the logic of £20K as an enticement in the hope that it will cure these trainees of their moisture aversion  – and hopefully retain them in these areas as, to use Health Education England’s own words, ‘They discover these locations’ hidden attractions.’ Oo err missus.

But, bloody hell, this just feels like another few million quid to chuck at GP-land in the hope that something sticks, to go with all the other bewildering initiatives, pilots, funds and rescue packages being bandied about. It’s as though general practice is in ITU and the treatment plan is to cover it with sticking plasters. Why not just pool the money into something meaningful and truly resuscitative, like a pay rise and an agreement to fund our defence subs?

That way we wouldn’t need any more stupid sodding initiatives. Because, by convincing everyone that general practice is getting marginally less shitty, the Government might not only recruit new GPs, it could retain some of the older ones, too.

In the meantime, my local Essex VTS has to compete with these golden handshakes for our repelled-by-water trainees. Not easy, as we’ve got Lakeside just down the road.

Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex