The RCGP welcomed the cash incentive scheme that offers GP trainees a lump sum of £20,000 to take up posts in chronically understaffed areas. Around one in nine GP training posts in England were vacant after three recruitment rounds in 2015, with unfilled places concentrated in north-east England and the east Midlands.
Trainees will now be offered golden hellos of £20,000 by HEE to take up posts in some of the worst-hit locations for GP recruitment in the country, including Lincolnshire, Cumbria, West Lakes, Blackpool and the Isle of Wight.
The GP National Recruitment Office (GPNRO) has also introduced nine new initiatives to streamline the process of becoming a GP and make it more flexible for trainees. Choosing general practice as a career is now ‘easier than ever’, it said.
Recruitment will drop back to just two intake rounds from this year, following two years of a third round being introduced in an attempt to boost numbers.
Trainees will be able to defer uptake of their training post for non-statutory reasons and can now state their preferences for the location of their placement at a more localised level.
Unsuccessful applicants can be enrolled on to pre-specialty training courses or top-up foundation courses to prepare them for GP training and allow them to apply again for GP training a year later.
Scores allocated by one local education and training board or deanery to applicants for GP training will also become transferable, to limit the number of potential trainees who go into clearing after an initial application.
The ‘targeted enhanced recruitment scheme’ will offer a one-off bursary of £20,000 to GP trainees who commit to working in one of 109 training places in England that have consistently struggled to recruit trainees in the past three years.
Introducing the scheme, the GPNRO said these areas had an ‘extremely good track record’ for education, but were less popular simply because of their geographical location.
Doctors that move to the areas usually stay on after training as ‘they discover the hidden attractions of these locations’, it added.
RCGP chairwoman Dr Maureen Baker said welcomed the announcement: ‘This initiative is something that the college has been proposing for some time, and we are pleased to see it being implemented,’ she said.
‘Similar schemes have worked really well for other careers, such as teaching, and we hope it will encourage new GPs to under-doctored areas in the best interests of providing safe care now and in the future, wherever our patients live.
‘It is just one initiative in the 10-point-plan to build the GP workforce that the college launched last year with NHS England, HEE and the BMA and we will continue to work with the government and decision makers to "recruit, retain, return" the thousands more GPs necessary to keep our profession – and the wider NHS – sustainable.
‘Of course, such a scheme will take a while to take effect, and in the shorter term, as I said in my speech to the LMC conference on Saturday, we need NHS England’s upcoming "emergency package" for general practice to include, amongst other things, resilience teams that can be parachuted into practices to stabilise staffing issues, and a return-to-work scheme for practice nurses.’