‘Golden Hello’ plan for doc­tors raises ques­tions

Belfast Telegraph - - VIEWPOINT -

The pro­posal by Health Sec­re­tary Jeremy Hunt to give young GPs in train­ing a ‘golden hello’ one-off pay­ment of £20,000 if they agree to work in ru­ral ar­eas has a su­per­fi­cial ap­peal as a way of tack­ling the cri­sis in fam­ily doc­tor prac­tices in re­mote places.

North­ern Ire­land, like Eng­land and Wales, has seen an in­creas­ing de­mand for GP ser­vices from an age­ing pop­u­la­tion — up by more than 60% in 10 years — and a num­ber of prac­tices, par­tic­u­larly in ru­ral ar­eas of Co Fer­managh, have closed, leav­ing peo­ple to make lengthy round trips to seek med­i­cal opin­ion and also lengthy wait­ing times for ap­point­ments.

A sig­nif­i­cant pro­por­tion of the GP pop­u­la­tion in the prov­ince is near­ing retirement age and there are fears that younger GPs will be re­luc­tant to move to the more ru­ral prac­tices.

It is against that back­drop that the BMA in the prov­ince is urg­ing the Health Sec­re­tary to ex­tend the pro­posed scheme across the Ir­ish Sea.

But it is a move which might not be widely ap­pre­ci­ated by the pub­lic, who feel that the level of ser­vice pro­vided by fam­ily doc­tors has de­clined in re­cent years. GPs in­creas­ingly de­cline to work week­ends or at night or make house calls, ex­cept in emer­gen­cies. The slack is taken up by out-of-hour ser­vices.

In the pub­lic mind doc­tors are mem­bers of a car­ing pro­fes­sion — and while they are in­de­pen­dent con­trac­tors are still seen as an in­te­gral part of the NHS. They are well re­warded for their work — although it is dif­fi­cult to put a price on a per­son who could one day save your life.

The pub­lic will won­der if there is not a bet­ter way to or­gan­ise GP ser­vices than by what could be seen as a bribe to young mem­bers of the pro­fes­sions to move to the coun­try­side.

Af­ter all, North­ern Ire­land is a largely ru­ral area, so the de­mand for the pro­posed wind­fall could be high at a time when the health ser­vice is al­ready suf­fer­ing a cash cri­sis.

Surely it would be bet­ter to en­sure that suf­fi­cient train­ing posts for GPs are in po­si­tion and that new work­ing prac­tices are in­tro­duced?

It has not es­caped the no­tice of the pub­lic that an el­e­ment of mar­ket forces has en­tered this sec­tor of health­care. Locums are rou­tinely paid £360 a day for cover­ing for GPs in Belfast — even more in ru­ral ar­eas. At those rates the £20,000 one-off pay­ment may not have great ap­peal to doc­tors, but may jar with their pa­tients.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.