RCGP chairwoman Dr Maureen Baker warned that the health secretary must send a ‘clear message’ to junior doctors that choosing to enter general practice training would not put them at a financial disadvantage.
In an internal blog to RCGP members, seen by GPonline, the RCGP said Mr Hunt had written to assure the college that ‘the government did not intend to end the GP trainee supplement’ and there was 'no question' of removing incentives to enter GP training.
But his letter, in response to an open letter from the RCGP sent last month, added that trainees will instead be able to apply for additional funding as part of a 'new recruitment and retention scheme'.
This ‘will continue to ensure a strong incentive to support increased recruitment into general practice’, Mr Hunt said.
He added: ‘The process for determining the application and level of the premium would be very much the same as the current process for determining the application and level of the GP trainee supplement.’
GP trainee pay cut
Dr Baker praised the response as ‘significant progress’, but warned that there was ‘still some ambiguity’ in the statements. The RCGP remains ‘very concerned’ that the suggested cuts could have a lasting negative impact on the future of general practice and patient care.
The RCGP took the ‘unprecedented’ step of writing to Mr Hunt last month, urging the government to reject ‘catastrophic’ DDRB proposals to scrap the GP trainee supplement in the next contract.
The supplement bolsters GP trainee pay, bringing it in line with pay received by hospital trainees. Its removal would cause GP trainees to be paid 31% less than hospital equivalents – which GP leaders warn will compound recruitment problems.
The latest official recruitment figures laid bare the full extent of the current GP trainee crisis, showing that a fifth of available posts were left unfilled following two rounds of recruitment. Several of the worst hit regions struggled to fill even half of their available places.