Yesterday we did a post on the shortage of doctors in rural areas in South Africa and the fact that hundreds of newly qualified doctors remain unemployed while the country’s rural state hospitals remain desperately understaffed because they turned down posts in rural hospitals. It seems this is not only a problem in South Africa, but the UK seems to have come up with a solution…

Record numbers of UK GPs are working in some of England’s most deprived communities after being given £20,000 “golden hellos” to tackle the under-doctoring of poorer areas.

The Guardian reports that more than 500 trainee family doctors have begun working in places such as Hull, Blackpool and Cumbria since 2016 in a move National Health Service (NHS) bosses hope will tackle stark health inequalities. The incentive helped persuade 265 doctors last year to start their career in areas that have struggled to recruit enough GPs. That is double the 133 of a year earlier and the 122 in 2016, the first year the payments were offered.

The report says NHS England and Health Education England introduced the “targeted enhanced recruitment scheme” to try to attract trainee GPs to work in certain parts of England, including rural and coastal towns. They commit to spend at least three years in one of the areas with the biggest shortages of family doctors.

The report says it is the first time the initiative has filled 100% of vacancies advertised. “The scheme is having a hugely positive impact on parts of the country where we have traditionally struggled to recruit trainee family doctors,” said Dr Nikki Kanani, NHS England’s director of primary care. “Although overall recruitment of GPs is increasing, in some parts of England a significant proportion of GP training places have been unfilled. This scheme helps relieve pressure on general practices facing the most severe recruitment challenges.”

NHS bosses hope the extra family doctors will mean patients can get appointments more easily and will help to improve health in communities where often rates of illness are higher and life expectancy lower. The number of family doctors overall in England is falling, despite the government pledging in 2015 to increase it by 5,000 by 2020.

The report says the incentive’s success comes as an investigation revealed what the Royal College of GPs called “shocking” differences in the number of family doctors. Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, the college’s chair, believes that England needs 6,000 more GPs to cope with the ageing and growing population and boost the 34,000 already in post.

“Over the past decade the GP workforce has fallen faster in the most deprived areas than in the wealthiest. This risks fuelling a vicious cycle of poorer access to care for those with the greatest need,” said Dr Becks Fisher, a GP and policy fellow at the Health Foundation thinktank.

“Health Foundation analysis shows that the number of people living with multiple long-term health conditions is rising and so patients have increasingly complex needs. This is particularly the case in more deprived areas, where people reach the same level of illness a whole decade earlier than those in the most wealthy areas.”

The report says Stokes-Lampard welcomed the news but said GPs leaving the profession with early retirement because they are burned-out was a big problem. “Taking steps to reduce workload to make working in general practice more sustainable, and removing incentives to retire early for GPs who might not necessarily want to, would both be sensible places to start.”

Quite frankly, my question is “what happened to becoming a doctor being a “calling” and not about the money?

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