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Reaction from Suffolk and Essex health chiefs as Government reveals plan to pay GPs starting career in rural areas £20,000

Stock image of a GP. Picture: PRESS ASSOCIATION

Stock image of a GP. Picture: PRESS ASSOCIATION

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Million-pound plans to roll out a ‘golden hello’ for GPs starting their careers in rural areas would not provide enough cash to plug a chronic GP recruitment gap in Suffolk and north Essex, an MP has said.

Paul Driscoll, chairman of the Suffolk GP Federation. Picture: GENESIS PR Paul Driscoll, chairman of the Suffolk GP Federation. Picture: GENESIS PR

The new proposals, unveiled today by health secretary Jeremy Hunt, would see medics who train in the countryside or near the coast receive one-off payments of £20,000 as an incentive for them to build their careers in rural areas.

Devised to boost the number of family doctors in areas worst-hit by shortages, Mr Hunt introduced the £4million scheme in a speech delivered to the Royal College of GPs in Liverpool.

Dr Dan Poulter, MP for Central Suffolk and north Ipswich, said he welcomed the plans due to come into effect in 2018 but warned the scheme may not be sustainable in the long term.

He added: “The amount of funding being pledged would not be enough – the current plans are for 200 GPs to get a one-off payment of £20,000.

Dr Dan Poulter speaking in the House of Commons. Dr Dan Poulter speaking in the House of Commons.

“It would not fill the chronic GP recruitment gap we are facing in Suffolk and nearby Essex.

“Something like this is not sustainable in the long term because in Suffolk alone we would need 40 to 50 new GPs over the next few years.”

Felixstowe doctor Paul Driscoll, medical director at the Suffolk GP Federation, said the lack of GPs in the region has led to some practices employing paramedics and pharmacists – to widen skill sets and expand their workforce.

He backed Mr Hunt’s plans and added: “Here in Suffolk we are simply fishing from an empty pool. Therefore, anything that encourages new GPs to come to Suffolk must be welcomed.”

Clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) serving west Suffolk and Ipswich and east Suffolk also had positive things to say.

A spokesman said: “We welcome this initiative to encourage newly qualified GPs to begin their working lives in Suffolk, a county which offers really good career development opportunities and a great environment for living a healthy and happy family life.

“Like the rest of the country, Suffolk faces real recruitment issues.”

Sam Hepplewhite, chief officer at the north east Essex CCG, added: “There are shortages of clinicians in our county, particularly in some of our coastal practices across north east Essex, so any initiative designed to alleviate this is very welcome.”

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