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GPs to be offered one-off £20,000 to work in rural areas

Credit: PA

GPs in training will receive a £20,000 'golden hello' if they start their careers in the countryside or on the coast.

The new measure will be introduced in a bid to boost the number of family doctors in areas with difficulty recruiting.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said 200 GPs a year would be offered the deal.

"If general practice fails, the NHS fails," he told Royal College of GPs annual conference in Liverpool.

From 2018, surgeries in hard to recruit to areas will benefit from the new £4 million scheme.

Other measures announced included:

  • Flexible working for older GPs to encourage them to stay in the workforce longer before retiring
  • An overseas recruitment office to lure GPs from outside Europe - particularly Australia - to come and work in England
  • A state-backed scheme for medical negligence cover which currently costs medics around £8,000 a year and has forced some doctors out of the profession

The new posts were welcomed by the Royal College of GPs.

Chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: "We have an incredibly serious shortage of GPs right across the country, but there are some areas that struggle to recruit more than others and often they are in remote and rural areas, so this commitment to incentivise working in these areas is welcome."

But Rebecca Rosen, senior policy fellow at think tank The Nuffield Trust, warned it would be getting GPs to stay that would be the hard part.

She said: "Attracting trainees is only half the battle: the NHS is struggling to hang on to qualified GPs, with surveys showing 56% plan to retire or leave practice early. Many trainees also drop out when they finish.

"Like many areas of the NHS, pressure of work, low morale and the impact of staff shortages is making it harder and harder to keep family doctors in practice. So the real test for this policy will be in ensuring trainee GPs tempted to work in these rural areas will stay."