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GPs' golden hellos cost pounds 1m.

Byline: JENNY REES

GOLDEN HELLOS to try to persuade GPs to come to Wales have cost pounds 1m, it is revealed today.

But the pounds 5,000 a person payout has failed to stop the haemorrhage of GPs from Wales, the British Medical Association warned last night. In its first year the GP recruitment scheme attracted 103 doctors to work in Wales by offering a pounds 5,000 golden hello.

At the same time 378 GPs took advantage of the golden thanks scheme, which offered pounds 1,000 to doctors aged 55-64 who remained in the NHS rather than consider retirement.

But while Assembly Health Minister Jane Hutt proclaimed the initiative a huge success, the British Medical Association in Wales said it had not stopped the large numbers of doctors leaving the profession.

There are currently no figures to show whether the scheme has had a positive effect on recruitment or retention figures, as the most recent figures are for 2000-2001, when 87 GPs joined, and 77 left.

Gruff Jones, a GP in Holywell, Flintshire, and BMA negotiator, said, ``It has not helped the exodus from Wales to England.

``I have come across four people recently who are leaving because there are better conditions elsewhere. Younger people with three to five years experience leave general practice because they are not able to cope with the stress.

``Because of the number of patients they have to deal with they don't feel they are able to provide the quality of service.''

Dr Jones accepted that the scheme had been successful in recruiting GPs to certain areas, but said, ``It's certainly not solving the problem and there are still people leaving at the other end that we don't get the figures for. I think it's plugging the holes more than anything.''

A secondment grant of up to pounds 15,000 to release GPs to work in hard-to-fill posts was also made available, but Dr Jones said the amount simply wasn't enough for the upheaval involved.

``The main issue is having enough time to treat patients properly and to do that we need to attract more people into general practice. This is a good start, but it needs to be refined.''

And it is the fine tuning that Ms Hutt will now be turning her attention to. ``I am fully aware of the pressures GPs are under and their concerns that we do all we can to recruit new GPs and retain those we already have,'' she said. ``The schemes we have introduced have clearly had an effect and we are currently reviewing these to see if they can be improved further.

``The golden hellos and golden thanks are not the only schemes we have in Wales. We also have the unique student loan relief scheme which is aimed at newly qualified GPs taking up posts in Wales immediately after completing their vocational training scheme. The scheme provides a financial contribution to help pay off any residual student loan, to a maximum of pounds 2,000.

``I also know there are a number of innovative local initiatives being undertaken to recruit GPs into specific areas. For example, the Rhondda Cynon Taff Local Health Group has been recruiting salaried GPs into the Rhondda Valley and to date three new GPs have been recruited and are in post.
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUW
Date:Jan 9, 2003
Words:552
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