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Jeremy Hunt offers new doctors £20,000 to take up posts in 'hard to recruit areas' in bid to tackle GP shortage

By Matt Leclere

Newly-qualified GPs will be offered a £20,000 "golden hello" to take up posts in areas where practices are struggling to recruit doctors.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt today announced the plan in a bid to tackle recruitment issues and take pressure off the crisis crippling GP services.

Surgeries across Kent are set to benefit from the £4 million investment.

Stock picture of GP in a surgery with patient
Stock picture of GP in a surgery with patient

Many areas around the county have been hit hard after doctors retiring or leaving not being replaced and surgeries struggling to find replacements.

In many areas including Medway, Swale and most recently in Folkestone, practices have been forced to close due to a shortage of GPs.

Mr Hunt announced the new training scheme, which will launch in 2018, at the Royal College of General Practitioners Conference in Liverpool today.

He said: "Last month, the Care Quality Commission gave a glowing verdict on the state of general practice in England.

"But this should not distract us from the fact that the profession is under considerable pressure at the moment.

"By introducing targeted support for vulnerable areas and tackling head on critical issues such as higher indemnity fees and the recruitment and retention of more doctors, we can strengthen and secure general practice for the future.

"Our talented GP workforce is one of the reasons why we have the best healthcare system in the world."

Jeremy Hunt has announced extra funding to encourage GPs to work in understaffed areas
Jeremy Hunt has announced extra funding to encourage GPs to work in understaffed areas

In 2015, GPs warned a chronic shortage of GPs in Kent needed to be addressed.

Hard to recruit areas will benefit from the investment offering trainee doctors a £20,000 one-off payment.

The government says it hopes this will encourage them to take up positions where there are not enough GPs.

The Targeted Enhanced Recruitment Scheme will target providing training for GPs in places where spaces have been vacant for "a number of years".

The government also said 1,500 additional training places being made available next year need to be located in "priority areas" such as coastal and rural communities.

But doctors have warned whether the new scheme will differ from what is already in place.

"General practice is facing unprecedented pressure from rising workload, stagnating budgets and a workforce crisis." Dr Richard Vautrey, BMA

Dr Richard Vautrey, chairman of the British Medical Association's GPs committee, said: "It is not clear whether this new announcement, which comes without any real details, is any different from the existing scheme.

"There are also many other areas of the country, including urban areas, that are also suffering from GP shortages.

"General practice is facing unprecedented pressure from rising workload, stagnating budgets and a workforce crisis that has left many parts of the country without enough GPs to treat patients.

"These proposals do appear to acknowledge the specific problems facing rural areas in England."

Mr Hunt's announcement forms part of an extra £2.4 billion per year being invested into primary care by 2021.

The government is also working on schemes to introduce flexible working arrangements for GPs approaching retirement including mentoring or leadership roles, new international recruitment run by NHS England to help surgeries recruit from overseas, and consulting on roles for support staff.

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