The Tory Health Secretary is to unveil a cash incentive scheme to try to improve service at GP surgeries.
His Targeted Enhanced Recruitment Scheme will be launched next year. It will offer one-off “golden hello” payments of £20,000 to trainee GPs willing to work in areas where training vacancies have been open for several years.
Mr Hunt has also ordered the NHS training quango Health Education England (HEE) to ensure that many of the 1,500 additional medical training places that will be funded from next year are located in priority areas, including rural and coastal communities.
Mr Hunt said last night: “Last month, the Care Quality Commission gave a glowing verdict on the state of general practice in England, but this should not distract us from the fact that the profession is under considerable pressure at the moment.
“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 £2.4 billion a year for primary care by 2021, will ensure this continues.”
He will formally announce the move in a speech at the Royal College of General Practitioners’ Conference in Liverpool today.
New measures to include GP recruitment include:
::Flexible working arrangements, including the opportunity to take on mentoring and leadership roles, for GPs considering retirement;
::A new international recruitment office set up by NHS England to help local areas to recruit GPs from overseas, with plans to expand potential fast-track routes into general practice for doctors trained outside the European Economic Area in countries such as Australia.
::A Government consultation on the regulation of physician associates to provide further clarity on the scope of the role, and exploring how support staff can bolster healthcare teams across the country.
The Health Secretary is also expected to signal plans for a new state-backed scheme for clinical negligence indemnity for general practice in England, providing a long term solution to the increasing fees which are forcing doctors out of the profession.
While in recent years NHS England has protected GPs against the rising value of claims, the average GP now pays around £8,000 a year on their clinical indemnity cover.
Alongside HM Treasury, the Department of Health will work with the General Practitioners’ Committee, the Royal College of General Practice and the four Medical Defence Organisations on the best way forward.
Prof Wendy Reid, Director of Education and Quality and National Medical Director at Health Education England, said: “Since its establishment in 2013, Health Education England (HEE) has honoured its commitment to invest more in GP training by increasing the number of training posts available.
“We spend nearly £500 million a year on GP training.
“We are working closely with NHS England to provide 5,000 more doctors in general practice by 2020.
“More doctors than ever before are entering general practice and this is illustrated by the GP training fill rate figures for 2016 which at 3,019 is the highest number ever.
“Through the work of the GP Forward View, we are working with partners including NHS England, The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) and the BMA GPs committee (GPC) to increase numbers of GPs and make sure we have a skilled, trained and motivated workforce.”