Golden hellos could undermine GP recruitment in neighbouring areas, HEE admits

An incentive scheme that offers trainees £20,000 to take up GP posts in hard-to-recruit areas may be 'pulling' them from neighbouring programmes and simply shifting recruitment problems around the country, Health Education England (HEE) has admitted.

A major scheme launched by HEE to attract GP trainees to historically hard-to-recruit areas – known as the Targeting Enhanced Recruitment Scheme (TERS) – may not be fixing recruitment shortages despite high uptake, HEE has warned.

The 'golden hello' scheme, which offers trainees a one-off sum of £20,000, is one of several HEE initiatives launched this February to improve uptake of GP posts and streamline the process of becoming a GP.

HEE said the scheme had been popular, reporting that – as of October – 99 of the 109 available posts had been filled.

GP training

But in evidence submitted last month to the Doctors and Dentists Review Body (DDRB), it reported concerns that the scheme was simply ‘pulling’ trainees out of adjacent areas instead of solving recruitment problems.

HEE has uncovered ‘some evidence’ to support this concern, it said. A spokeswoman told GPonline that further 'time for analysis' was required before further details could be divulged.

Official data on uptake of GP training posts published earlier this year show that while the number of trainees recruited overall increased in 2016, the picture across England was mixed. Some areas saw sharp improvements in the proportion of posts filled, while in other areas uptake fell.

GPC education, training and workforce subcommittee chair Dr Krishna Kasaraneni told GPonline: 'It is no secret that the GP training target was not met this year. The BMA has long been stating that the best way to improve the GP recruitment numbers is by improving the day-to-day working life of hardworking, overstretched GPs. Only one in 10 GPs describe their workload as manageable - this needs addressing urgently.

'While targeted incentives are crucial to encourage doctors to take up GP training in difficult-to-recruit areas, this will not have a huge impact on the overall training numbers. The powers that be need to focus on immediately implementing the recommendations in the BMA’s Urgent Prescription for General Practice to address the workforce crisis.'

GP workforce

HEE offered places on the TERS during the 2016 phase of recruitment in a number of areas including the Isle of Wight, Blackpool, East Cumbria, South Cumbria, West Lakes, Lincolnshire and Northern Lincolnshire.

It will expand the scheme further in 2017, when it will continue to be offered in some of these areas alongside new locations including King's Lynn, Hull and North Cumbria.

Both of these are close to Lincolnshire, where the programme was previously offered, while North Cumbria neighbours East Cumbria, South Cumbria and West Lakes.

In its written evidence to the DDRB, HEE said: ‘The scheme is yet to be fully evaluated but has increased recruitment in these areas, to the extent that HEE is replicating the scheme in other areas.

‘However, there is some evidence that this has "pulled" trainees from adjacent programmes which are thus finding it harder to fill than in past years.’

Asked if it had any concerns about this, HEE told GPonline: ‘It is thanks to the TERS programme that there has been recruitment in hard-to-recruit areas.’

Photo: iStock

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