Plan to give young GPs £20k to work in ru­ral ar­eas should be rolled out here, says BMA

Belfast Telegraph - - NEWS - BY ELLA PICKOVER

A SCHEME that sees gen­eral prac­ti­tion­ers in train­ing given a ‘golden hello’ of £20,000 if they start their ca­reers in ru­ral ar­eas should be rolled out across North­ern Ire­land, the chair of the lo­cal Bri­tish Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion (BMA) com­mit­tee has said.

Con­ser­va­tive Health Sec­re­tary Jeremy Hunt is to in­tro­duce a pack­age of mea­sures to help the strug­gling GP work­force.

This in­cludes a one-off pay­ment to try to en­tice 200 GPs who are be­gin­ning their ca­reers to work in ar­eas strug­gling to se­cure fam­ily doc­tors — such as ru­ral prac­tices and those by the sea­side.

Dr Tom Black (right), chair of BMA North­ern Ire­land’s GP com­mit­tee, has called for a sim­i­lar scheme to be used here to help plug the GP short­age.

“It is clear from this an­nounce­ment that Eng­land also has a GP cri­sis, how­ever their govern­ment is at least mak­ing some at­tempt to ad­dress the is­sue,” he said.

“We re­ally need a sim­i­lar an­nounce­ment for North­ern Ire­land, our ru­ral prac­tices face the same is­sues as in Eng­land, if not more so. We have al­ready seen prac­tice clo­sures in Fer­managh and there is no sign of that im­prov­ing.

“Re­cruit­ment and re­ten­tion is­sues are also be­ing ex­ac­er­bated by the desta­bil­is­ing ef­fect that in­dem­nity rises will cre­ate in gen­eral prac­tice, and the lack of a con­tract set­tle­ment for 2017-18.

“We need a govern­ment in place to im­ple­ment the GPled care re­view plan that was agreed by the Depart­ment of Health (NI) nearly a year ago.”

North­ern Ire­land is fac­ing a ma­jor short­age of GPs cover­ing ru­ral ar­eas which has led to the clo­sure of some surg­eries.

A num­ber of prac­tices in ru­ral ar­eas, par­tic­u­larly in Co Fer­managh, have been strug­gling to fill posts with per­ma­nent GPs.

The Bri­tish Govern­ment an­nounced that, from 2018, surg­eries in hard to re­cruit to ar­eas will ben­e­fit from the new £4 mil­lion scheme.

Ad­dress­ing the Royal Col­lege of GPs an­nual con­fer­ence in Liver­pool, Mr Hunt an­nounced plans for flex­i­ble work­ing for older GPs to en­cour­age them to stay in the work­force for longer be­fore re­tir­ing.

Pro­fes­sor He­len Stokes-Lam­pard, chair­woman of the Royal Col­lege of GPs, said: “We have an in­cred­i­bly se­ri­ous short­age of GPs right across the coun­try, but there are some ar­eas that strug­gle to re­cruit more than oth­ers and of­ten they are in re­mote and ru­ral ar­eas, so this com­mit­ment to in­cen­tivise work­ing in th­ese ar­eas is wel­come.


and prac­tice teams in re­mote and ru­ral ar­eas face unique chal­lenges — but when the ser­vice is ad­e­quately re­sourced to meet pa­tients’ spe­cific needs, they can also be fan­tas­tic and re­ward­ing places to work.”

Dr Richard Vautrey, chair­man of the BMA’s GP com­mit­tee, said: “GP 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. But ‘golden hel­los’ are not a new idea and un­likely to solve the over­all work­force cri­sis given we are fail­ing badly to train enough GPs to meet cur­rent de­mands.

“There is al­ready an in­cen­tive pro­gramme for ‘hard to re­cruit ar­eas’ that has been op­er­at­ing since 2016 and it is not clear whether this new an­nounce­ment, which comes with­out any real de­tails, is any dif­fer­ent from that scheme.”

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