The 'new to partnership' payment scheme offers a payment of £20,000 to health professionals taking up a full-time partnership role in general practice for the first time after 31 March 2020.
The scheme, backed by a further £4,000 contribution for on costs and a £3,000 training grant, is open not only to GPs taking on partnership roles in general practice, but also to nurses, pharmacists, physios and a number of other clinicians - although it does not apply to practice managers.
Rollout of the incentive scheme for new partners comes after a sustained decline in the number of GPs in partnership roles in England over recent years. General practice has lost more than 3,600 full-time equivalent GP partners over the past four years - a trend that appears to be accelerating against a backdrop of rising workload and falling profits.
The offer of golden hello payments was agreed as part of the 2020/21 GP contract deal - the second year of a five-year contract agreement worth a total of £2.8bn between 2019 and 2024. Its launch was stalled by the coronavirus pandemic, but officials said payments will be backdated where appropriate - confirming that 'those clinicians who meet the criteria and accept/ accepted a partnership position on or after 1 April 2020 are eligible'.
There is understood to be no limit on the number of applications that can be accepted from eligible GPs and NHS England has confirmed the golden hello scheme is expected to remain open for two financial years - 2020/21 and 2021/22.
Applicants do not have to be working full-time in the partnership role - and for those working less than full time, 'payment will be calculated on a pro-rata basis, and they must work two clinical sessions per week as a minimum', guidance from NHS England says.
GPs and other health professionals claiming the incentive payments must 'commit to holding an equity-shares partnership for five years, and to delivering a minimum of two clinical sessions per week in their general practice setting throughout'. Staff who pull out of partnership roles before the five-year term is completed will have to repay 20% of the golden hello payment for each year not completed.
Partners in decline
BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: 'The partnership model, which gives GPs based in communities the autonomy to lead and advocate for their patients, is the foundation of general practice, and vital for its survival and sustainability.
'However, in recent years the number of partners in England has been steadily falling and it was clear to us that action needed to be taken to attract and equip GPs to take on partnership. This scheme, secured through negotiation with the BMA, shows faith in GPs and the partnership model – backed with additional investment – so that new partners can have the confidence in taking on this important role.
'Of course, there are still wider issues facing partners – and influencing GPs’ decisions around becoming or remaining as partners themselves – that need urgent attention.
'This includes vastly cutting back on bureaucracy and regulation, and empowering GPs as leaders enabled to shape sustainable services with the necessary resources in their area. Recent months have shown practices overhauling systems to ensure patients receive high quality care during the pandemic, and GPs must be trusted to continue this leadership and deliver the best for their patients and communities for the long term.'
NHS medical director for primary care Dr Nikki Kanani said: 'This was a key commitment in the latest GP contract and is a fantastic opportunity for health care professionals working in primary care to take the next step in their careers.
'It is just one of a raft of recruitment and retention initiatives to support general practice and the partnership model, and we hope it will give a real helping hand to a diverse range of clinical groups as they look take on this role, building a sustainable workforce for patients and local communities for years to come.'