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Could Golden Hellos be offered to GPs in Suffolk and north Essex under new government plans?

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt. Picture: VICTORIA JONES/PA WIRE

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt. Picture: VICTORIA JONES/PA WIRE

GPs in training could be offered a so-called ‘golden hello’ of £20,000 to begin their careers in rural or coastal areas in a bid to boost doctor numbers in places with recruitment issues.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt will unveil a package of measures to help the struggling workforce in a speech at the Royal College of GPs annual conference today.

The golden hello will be offered to 200 GPs in the £4million scheme, which will be open to surgeries from 2018. It has not yet been revealed which specific areas will benefit from the cash incentive.

However a similar scheme has already been piloted in parts of East Anglia which have been facing a shortage of GPs over recent years.

Golden hello offered to Clacton GPs

The North East Essex Clinical Commissioning Group, working with NHS England, has already run a golden hello initiative in a bid to recruit doctors to Clacton – with one GP relocating from Manchester for a minimum of two years in return for a £9,500 bonus.

In January 2016 Andrew Sarek, then practice manager of the Ranworth Surgery in Clacton, told the East Anglian Daily Times that the area was perceived as “difficult” to work in due higher than average levels of deprivation and an ageing population.

An early version of the scheme, which began in the summer of 2014, also saw the offer extended to GPs moving to the Braintree area.

Where has GP shortage hit Suffolk and north Essex?

Mr Hunt will also in his speech today confirm plans for an overseas recruitment office which will try to lure GPs from countries outside Europe – particularly Australia – to come and work in England.

The Department of Health has also launched a consultation on the regulation of physician associates (PAs) to provide further clarity on the scope of the role. It is hoped these PAs – usually science graduates who have undergone two years of intensive training – can help support healthcare teams across the country.

But concerns have previously been raised over plans to use more PAs to perform medical duties including examining patients, diagnosing illnesses and analysing test results, and leading medics have warned the new posts should not be used as a way of replacing doctors.

In his speech to delegates, Mr Hunt will also try to address one of the main concerns facing the GP workforce – the rising costs of indemnity

Mr Hunt will signal plans for a new state-backed scheme for clinical negligence indemnity for general practice in England. It is hoped this would create a long-term solution to the increasing fees which are forcing doctors out of the profession, with the average medic now shelling out around £8,000 a year for clinical negligence indemnity cover.

Mr Hunt said: “By introducing targeted support for vulnerable areas and tackling head-on critical issues such as higher indemnity fees and the recruitment and retention of more doctors, we can strengthen and secure general practice for the future.

“Our talented GP workforce is one of the reasons why we have the best healthcare system in the world, and our commitment of an additional £2.4billion a year for primary care by 2021 will ensure this continues.”

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