Hull, where I work, has been hit particularly hard by the GP crisis. If I talk to anyone working in my area their stories all speak of the same stress – ‘no applicants to our BMJ advert’; ‘can’t replace a retiring partner’; ‘at least eight sessions short’; ‘had to close our list’. It’s not rocket science as to why this is the case – the major issue locally is loss of retiring GPs and poor recruitment of new colleagues. The local VTS has only filled 11 places out of a possible 30.
Our CCG believes the problem can be solved locally with a solely salaried model, extended fixed term contracts and added incentives of training opportunities and professional development. The long-term aim is for the city to be served by a purely salaried service.
But despite the perks, this is still a tough sell. Both new and existing doctors are sceptical about how the scheme would work. Few groups of incoming GPs would choose a six-year contract in such uncertain times. And candidates are unsure if the remuneration will be competitive against a nationwide market.
At the same time, local partners are concerned about the impact of the proposals on their staff and premises, and feel unsure of how the model would work. They are also worried about the possibility of outside-area providers or private companies becoming involved, as co-commissioning looms.
And despite the crisis, GPs can still work in Hull without signing a six-year contract.
I’m a locum as part of a medical “chambers” organisation, which provides regular group and peer support for locums. Doctors in chambers pay into their group to fund a small management team, who arrange bookings, negotiate work, promote the service, and generally handle the business of being self-employed whilst the doctors get on with the doctoring. The Yorkshire area has thriving GP chambers in Harrogate and Leeds as well as the one I’m in, which covers York, the East Riding and Hull.
This model of locuming provides me and my colleagues with a flexible career, but with the support of something bigger.
Rather than all becoming salaried employees, GPs could retain their independent status while being part of an organisation that brings its own benefits. The NHS is changing, and given our often lacklustre representation at national level, it’s time to take matters into our own hands.
And Hull is a great place to work for new GPs. The establishment and work of the Hull York Medical School (HYMS) in 2003 has brought huge benefits for the local doctors, offering training and teaching opportunities, as well as furthering education and research in the area. Considerable work has been done to encourage engagement between primary and secondary care locally, and excellent community matrons and nursing teams support general practice
Property prices are low, but the villages surrounding Hull and the nearby town of Beverley offer plenty of choice. Road and rail links to motorways and mainline routes make getting around easy. Plus the seaside is nearby, and who doesn’t like a bracing stroll near the North Sea with the promise of a chip shop at the end?
Granted, fish and chip suppers might not solve the local recruitment crisis. But while the government still refuses to give our profession the support it needs, they’re a far more appetising prospect than being a salaried GP.
Dr Zoe Norris is a GP in Hull. She recently wrote about working as a GP for the Huffington Post.