Record numbers of trainee GPs have joined surgeries in hard-to-recruit areas after the NHS offered a £20,000 “golden hello” incentive.
Some 520 doctors have filled vacancies described by the health service as “hardest to fill” under NHS England’s Targeted Enhancement Recruitment Scheme.
Launched in 2016, it offers the cash bonus to trainees who commit to work at the surgeries for at least three years.
The scheme was fully subscribed in 2018/19 when 265 trainee GPs signed up to work across 23 designated areas in England, the NHS said.
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The recruitment rate totalled more than the previous two years combined, with 133 trainees signing up in 2017 and 122 in 2016.
Dr Nikki Kanani, acting director of primary care at NHS England, said: “This scheme helps relieve pressure on general practices facing the most severe recruitment challenges, thereby supporting and improving services in these areas over time.”
Areas allocated the most posts under the programme include Hull, Plymouth, Lancaster and rural parts of County Durham and North Yorkshire.
Dr Kanani added: “Improving access to general practice services is a key priority for the NHS long-term plan and that is even more vital in areas that have historically found it difficult to attract GPs.”
The £20,000 is handed to the trainee doctors as a one-off payment and many stay on in the areas after training, the NHS said.