£1m fund to recruit more GPs
By Ted JeoryALMOST £1million is to be ploughed into tackling a potential crisis in the number of GPs in the county.Dr Brian Balmer, chief executive of the Essex Local Medical Committees, will unveil next week a package of measures to bring more doctors into the county, including a plan to recruit GPs from abroad.
By Ted Jeory
ALMOST £1million is to be ploughed into tackling a potential crisis in the number of GPs in the county.
Dr Brian Balmer, chief executive of the Essex Local Medical Committees, will unveil next week a package of measures to bring more doctors into the county, including a plan to recruit GPs from abroad.
The move comes amid growing concerns not enough GPs are coming through the ranks of the country's medical schools to meet the future demand.
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In an effort to address the problem, Dr Balmer conducted a study throughout the county and uncovered an “urgent” need to find new ways of bridging the gap.
Now the NHS has decided to give £980,000 to the county to be used for the recruitment and retention of GPs.
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Dr Balmer said: “There's been a shortage of GPs for some time now. This money will allow us to implement our plans to both recruit and retain doctors.
“We'll be trying to encourage more flexible working hours and increase the number of part-time staff by getting those people who are not at work at the moment to return.
“Some people - both mothers and fathers - find it difficult in school holidays and even in term times. Some will only work during school hours.”
Announcing £200,000 of the funds will be earmarked for increasing “international recruitment”, he added: “We'll be trying to bring in more doctors from abroad, particularly northern Spain.
“If they're cheaper than over here, then it makes a very good deal for the taxpayer.”
The problem with doctor numbers was a headache for health bosses in the Tendring district two years ago.
Tom Stewart, director of health improvement at Tendring Primary Care Trust, said during the past 15 months an “aggressive” recruiting campaign had led to 14 new GPs being appointed.
“We always have to keep on recruiting - we have to plan for the unknown. You just don't know when there's going to be a shortfall,” he added.
Mike Priest, director of primary care and corporate governance at Colchester Primary Care Trust, also welcomed the new funding, although he stressed there was no GP recruitment crisis in the town.
“Fingers crossed, we're in quite a fortunate situation here - doctors will come to Colchester. It has good schools, it's close to London, the countryside is beautiful and we have a good hospital,” he said.
“However, we do have a lot of doctors in their 50s, so if there are additional resources available, we'll take them. I don't want to start suffering the problems they do elsewhere around here.”
Dr Palmer will present his plans at a meeting of the Essex Strategic Health Authority at Colchester Town Hall on July 30 from 9.30am.