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Golden hello plan for rural GPs will not solve GP workforce crisis, warns BMA

Responding to announcements from the Secretary of State for Health on “golden hellos” for rural GPs and indemnity changes, Dr Richard Vautrey, BMA GP committee chair, said:

“General practice is facing unprecedented pressure from rising workload, stagnating budgets and a workforce crisis that has left many parts of the country without enough GPs to treat patients. These proposals do appear to acknowledge the specific problems facing rural areas in England. But “golden hellos” are not a new idea and unlikely to solve the overall workforce crisis given we are failing badly to train enough GPs to meet current demands. There is already an incentive programme for “hard to recruit areas” that has been operating since 2016 and it is not clear whether this new announcement, which comes without any real details, is any different from that scheme.

“There are also many other areas of the country, including urban areas, that are also suffering from GP shortages. A recent BMA survey found that one in three practices nationwide had vacancies that they were unable to fill after 12 months.

“The government is not on course to reach its target of 5,000 extra GPs by 2020. We need the government to commit to a long-term plan that gives general practice the resources it needs to deliver the service patients deserve.

“On the announcement on indemnity, it is encouraging that the Secretary of State has recognised this unacceptable financial burden being placed on GPs. Average indemnity costs have risen by more than 50 per cent between 2010 and 2016. There is clear evidence from a recent NHS England survey that this is reducing GPs willingness to work, for example, in out of hours settings where the average annual indemnity rise is around 20 per cent.

“It is vital that every GP has this form of insurance, but they should not be expected to be in a system where they are facing inflated yearly increases, especially at a time when many GPs are working increasing numbers of hours to provide care to patients. The commitment to provide state-backed indemnity cover is a particularly welcome step after the talks the government has being having directly with the BMA over the summer. We do however, need more detail on the financing of this scheme and it must cover all GPs whether they are a partner, salaried, locum, prison or other GP. It is also important we make progress quickly and deliver real change.”

Ends

Notes to Editors

The British Medical Association (BMA) is the voice of doctors and medical students in the UK. It is an apolitical professional organisation and independent trade union, representing doctors and medical students from all branches of medicine across the UK and supporting them to deliver the highest standards of care.

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